Public schools across the nation, many facing budget shortfalls, have been charging students fees to use textbooks or to take required tests or courses. Now, a civil liberties group is suing California over those proliferating fees, arguing that the state has failed to protect the right to a free public education, reports the New York Times. Experts said it was the first case of its kind, and could tempt parents in other states to file similar suits. In the suit, the American Civil Liberties Union names 35 school districts across California that list on their web sites the fees their schools charge for courses including art, home economics, and music, for AP tests, and for materials including gym uniforms. “We found that the charging of fees for required academic courses is rampant,” said Mark Rosenbaum, the ACLU’s legal director in Southern California. The suit names two anonymous plaintiffs, both students attending high schools in Orange County; their parents also declined to be identified. But other parents have been speaking out about the fees. Sally Smith, who has put three children through public schools in San Diego, including a daughter who is a high school senior there, said she has watched fees for uniforms and to participate in team sports rise for years. “All these fees were really taking a bite out of our budget, and our children lost the opportunity to participate in a lot of activities because we couldn’t afford them,” Smith said…

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Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. When she isn't wrangling her two children, Laura enjoys running, photography, home improvement, and rooting for the Terps. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura http://twitter.com/eSN_Laura