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LCUSD unaffected by extracurricular activities settlement

Districts that charge students for activities could be hit hard.

May 11, 2011|By Megan O'Neil and Andrew Shortall, megan.oneil@latimes.com; andrew.shortall@latimes.com

It will be business as usual for the La Cañada Unified School District while other education officials brace for a dramatic shift in how their extracurricular activities are funded.

A recent lawsuit settlement invokes existing state law that bars schools and their affiliates from charging students fees for programs like sports teams, musical ensembles and cheer squads. Members of the La Cañada Unified Governing Board said the district doesn’t have mandatory fees for the district’s extracurricular programs, so there will be no impact on LCUSD schools.

“We do not charge fees for extracurricular programs,” said board member Joel Peterson.

Students and parents may be asked to provide a voluntary donation to cover certain costs of the program, but it’s always clear the donation is voluntary, said board member Cindy Wilcox.

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“We make it clear that funds will be provided for kids who can't pay,” she said. “We always make it clear that the suggested donation is just that — a donation.”

California education officials in December settled a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against dozens of campuses, including John Burroughs High School in Burbank, alleging that charging students for educational activities violates existing law that public school districts provide free and equitable education to all students.

The state Legislature is now considering AB 165, which would impose penalties on districts where fees have been charged illegally. The bill also would mandate that all essential educational supplies, materials and equipment be provided at no cost.

Extracurricular programs in LCUSD are largely funded by voluntary organizations like the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation, the La Cañada Spartan Boosters Club and school’s PTAs. La Cañada High’s extracurricular programs are largely funded by donations from the Boosters, which raises funds throughout the year with events like the Poker Bash on Friday and the Booster’s annual auction dinner in November.

“The program can only be run by voluntary donations from organizations like the Boosters,” Peterson said. “If they don’t make those donations, we don’t have the program.”

Officials in surrounding districts said that the lawsuit and legislation would affect current practice.

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