A newly formed South Pasadena community group — People for an Ethical Local Economy (PELE) — is starting a campaign to educate students and parents that a free public education should be fully free and not include “unlawful” student fees.
Several students at South Pasadena High School, alongside parent adviser John Srebalus, are working to reach out through social media and other outlets to let students, parents and school officials know that “pupil fees are unlawful unless specifically authorized,” according to a press release by the organization.
The group said it was building on the work of the ACLU of Southern California and holds an awareness that poor, homeless and working people are “underserved and under-recognized” in South Pasadena.
“SPUSD hasn’t done a complete job of providing the required notifications about an array of impermissible pupil fees,” said Srebalus. “As a result, some programs have been charging these fees, and students aren’t aware of their rights. We’re here to make sure they are aware.”
PELE said it was working with the South Pasadena Unified School District to “clarify the language” within the annual Uniform Compliant Procedure Notice, which is handed out during registration for fall classes, in addition to providing information to students and parents.
The group noted that Education Code 49011 states, “School districts and schools shall not establish a two-tier educational system by requiring a minimal educational standard and also offering a second, higher educational standard that pupils may only obtain through payment of a fee …”
“Fees may not be required for class registration, extracurricular activities, supplies, materials, equipment, uniforms, instruments, locks, lockers or cap and gown, for example. Fees are allowed for camps and field trips, but no student shall be denied participation for lack of funds,” the group explained in its release.
PELE stressed that there was “nothing preventing schools from soliciting donations and voluntary fundraising.”
“We have a passionate booster community here in South Pas,” said PELE Chair Ruby Sortino. “We have the will and the resources to fully fund these programs, so let’s make sure equal access is the message delivered by coaches, instructors and administrators.”
“Mr. Srebalus has notified the South Pasadena Unified School District about his concerns,” said Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Christiane Gervais. “The California Department of Education annually provides the Uniform Complaint Procedure (UCP) Notice that is replicated for distribution. This notice adheres to legislative requirements, including information about pupil fees. Any claims of improper pupil fees will be investigated and remedied, as needed.”