Public schools must provide the clay used in art class, but they can charge a student for taking home his or her finished sculpture. Playing sports is considered part of the educational mission, so schools have to cover all the costs – including uniforms – but attending a game is just for fun so students can pay admission. And schools can ask – even plead – for donations, but can’t require them in order for students to participate in a certain class or activity.
These are the black and white – and gray – rules of a new state law governing when it’s OK to charge students for school-related materials, trips and activities. Under the law, schools were required to implement a formal complaint process allowing families to challenge what they believe are illegal fees by the beginning of this month, but today the state Board of Education starts the process of setting regulations for reimbursing students who were illegally charged for fees in the past year.