Costly ‘free’ education

Unquestionably, there is progress in Malibu. The average Malibuite now pays out twice as much in taxes as he formerly got in wages. Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy’s published remarks in The Malibu Times (10/4/01) were perplexing. I wrote a rejoinder that was met with a short published reply from some school board member who asked me to give Dr. John Deasy a chance to develop an agenda to correct the weakness of the school district. I was complaining about the Proposition Y school tax increase totaling $7,000,000 (Malibu Share) which was levied on the Malibu property owner, as of July 1, 2001, and states that it is to be used directly for the stated purpose to “enhance athletic, music and arts programs.” It was not being used for this purpose as the parents were paying fees for athletics, music and the arts. To date I have not seen nor heard a reply as to where the moneys from Proposition Y are going. I hear from the Malibu parents that they are concerned with the high cost of free public education in the Malibu Schools. My information is that these parents are still paying for athletic, music and art programs even with the establishment of Proposition Y taxes.

For Malibu students, the free public education they’re guaranteed by the

State of California is hardly free at all. From the time Malibu children enter kindergarten to the day they graduate from high school, parents shell out money for everything from boxes of paper towels and photographic supplies to athletic, music and art fees. And that’s wrong.

If a child is going to a public school, then whatever they need to attend that school in the way of school supplies should be free. A free education, I’ve read on the ACLU Web site, also extends to extracurricular activities like marching bands or cheerleading, according to a 1984 California Supreme Court ruling. Even so, every year Malibu parents pay hundreds of dollars for their offspring to participate in such activities. Schools and booster clubs who raise money sometimes neglect to tell parents that all those fees they’re asking for are voluntary, a donation, and not required. The issue of school fees was raised in a case brought last year by the American Civil Liberties Union against the state.

Among other charges, the ACLU suit claims that some schools, by charging fees, do not provide the free education required by law. A similar case was decided not many months ago, when a Superior Court judge ruled that Pasadena public schools could no longer charge for supplies such as outside reading books, art supplies or activities like band. It is not OK, according to the court ruling (Ventura County Star), for teachers to require students to buy books they’re supposed to read over the summer. California law says schools must supply any textbooks students must have for a class, including novels.

Here is the question I’m trying to resolve. Proposition Y moneys should be going to where we Malibu voters intended it to go, supporting Malibu Schools programs. Malibu Schools should have enough money to provide a range of programs for students without parents having to help pay for them. Malibu School principals should not have to choose between offering an art program and suiting up the Sharks’ football team. My question, Superintendent John Deasy is simple, a yes or no will do. Is the Proposition Y money going to the programs it was intended to go to?

If the answer is yes then why are Malibu Parents still paying fees for athletics, music and art programs? Follow the law, Dr. Deasy, or get the law changed.

And that is all I have to say. The ACLU will say the rest.

Tom Fakehany

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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