COUNTYWIDE : 4 Districts Charge Extracurricular Fees

In addition to Moorpark schools, three other Ventura County school districts charge students for extracurricular activities, a fee the state has said is illegal.

The Conejo Valley Unified School District in Thousand Oaks and the Ventura Unified School District charge students who participate in activities requiring bus transportation.

Also, the Oak Park Unified School District requires students who participate in sports to pay $100. The school district said the charge is a participation fee, not a transportation fee.

But a state Department of Education attorney has said such fees clearly violate the law. A 1984 state Supreme Court decision in the case of Hartzell vs. Connell ruled that fees for extracurricular activities violate the state Constitution's guarantee of a free education, deputy counsel Joanne Lowe said.

Lowe has written school officials in Simi Valley, Moorpark and Thousand Oaks, advising them that the transportation fees are illegal. At that time, Simi Valley also charged students. Lowe did not indicate that she was aware of the fees being charged in Ventura and Oak Park.

In response to Lowe's letter, the Simi Valley school board decided this week to rescind the fee. Moorpark school officials said Wednesday they had not received the letter but will discuss the issue at their next board meeting.

The Conejo district also has not received the state's letter. But Assistant Supt. Sarah Hart said the district has no intention of rescinding the fee.

Conejo has been charging a transportation fee for extracurricular activities since 1978, when Proposition 13 led to drastic cuts in school funding, Hart said.

Students pay $73 a year for the first extracurricular activity and discounted fees for additional activities, Hart said.

She said district officials may consider going to court over the issue.

In Ventura, high school students pay a $40 transportation fee for extracurricular activities. School district spokesman Joe Richards said the schools have been charging the fee for at least six years.

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