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Right to a Free Public Education?

 With more and more schools across the country losing money and laying off staff, it seems that desperate times call for desperate measures. 

Just a few months ago, a school in northeast Ohio charged its football players a $450-dollar fee to participate. Over in Strongsville, there was a one hundred-dollar fee for every sport and a general sixty-dollar fee that was established for students in k-12th grades.

California, however, played a rougher ballgame. An article in the New York Times stated that about 35 of California’s school districts have charged for things like art, music, gym uniforms, and books purchased through the school. Even sports programs drew charges -- a staggering four hundred dollars to join the wrestling team in one school.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California is suing the State of California, claiming that it defies the constitutional right to a free public education, as described in the 1984 Supreme Court ruling.

The lawsuit came about when the parents of two students spoke out about the illegal fees that directly affected their children’s education. Both students were publicly humiliated when teachers reminded them about the money they owed for books they could not afford. 

The lawsuit also names Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as the defendant in the case, arguing that it was his responsibility to crack down on schools imposing illegal fees.
School officials claim that the charges on students serve as a cushion to the increasing budget cuts.  For the struggling districts, the fees could be a potential determining factor to keep certain programs and extra-curriculars going in the long run. But is this fair to the people who can’t afford it? Should money be a reason their children can’t participate in public school sports and other activities?