By March 1, 2013 all public schools in California, including charter schools and alternative schools, must have a process in place for students and parents to file a complaint if they believe their school is charging fees as a condition of participating in educational activities. Such fees violate the California Constitution, which has guaranteed children free schools for well over a hundred years, and create a pay-to-learn system that discriminates against children from lower-income families. 
In 2010, the California affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the state following an ACLU investigation that uncovered a widespread practice among school districts of requiring students to pay fees and to purchase textbooks, workbooks, and other necessary materials for core academic courses. On October 1, 2012, the ACLU announced that it would dismiss the lawsuit following Governor Brown’s signing of Assembly Bill 1575, authored by Assemblymember Ricardo Lara and sponsored by the ACLU of California. AB 1575’s enactment was a major victory for the student plaintiffs, and on Friday, the new accountability system at the heart of the bill becomes effective.
“School districts have had five months to modify their complaint procedures to address concerns about fees,” said Brooks Allen, director of education advocacy for the ACLU Foundation of Southern California (ACLU/SC). “Every student and parent should feel confident they have recourse should they encounter a fee that denies free and equal access to all the classes and educational activities their school has to offer.”
The ACLU/SC has a “know your rights” information page, as well as a sample complaint form that students and parents may use to file complaints, at www.aclusocal.org/free-schools.

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