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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Ind. Decisions - "Court upholds tuition without charge"

"Court upholds tuition without charge" is the headline to an editorial today in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, on the Supreme Court's decision Thursday in Frank Nagy, et al. v. Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation. Some quotes:

This week’s ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court should prompt legislators to begin looking for ways to increase support for the state’s public schools. The court sent a message that it is unconstitutional to charge parents for services that are clearly essential to learning.

In a 4-1 opinion, the court ruled that Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corp. violated the state constitution by charging a $20 activity fee to offset a budget deficit. The fee was deposited in the district’s general fund and used to pay for nurses; media specialists; alternative education; elementary school counselors; and music, drama, speech and debate programs.

“In essence, the very programs, services and activities for which EVSC charges a fee already are a part of a publicly funded education in the state of Indiana,” Justice Robert D. Rucker wrote in the majority opinion. * * *

“Unlike constitutions in a number of other states, the framers of Indiana’s constitution were careful not to provide for a free school system,” Rucker wrote. “This is a subtle distinction, but a significant one that we believe the framers made intentionally. A free public school system implies a level of educational subsidization that the framers at least did not endorse and at most rejected outright.”

A stricter interpretation would have been a welcome one for parents. As funding for Indiana public schools has shrunk, they have been asked to pay more and more for textbooks. The textbook bill for a single Fort Wayne Community Schools student can easily exceed $150, for example.

Still, the unequivocal rejection of the Evansville activity fee should squelch any further efforts to charge families for programs and services that are clearly a part of a classroom education.

It should also serve as notice to lawmakers that schools have run out of options. Adequate support for schools must be provided if Indiana is to provide the first-class education its students deserve.

See these earlier ILB entries from 3/30/06 and 3/31/06.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 1, 2006 07:31 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions