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Monday, May 22, 2006

Ind. Decisions - More on: "To fee, or not to fee: State hopes to clarify kindergarten question"

"Kindergarten rule boggles schools" is the headline to this story today in the Gary Post-Tribune. Some quotes:

A recent decision rendered by Indiana Supreme Court Justice Robert Rucker is stirring up some old feelings about the ethics of fee-based public education. [The decision is Nagy, et al. v. Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation, available here.]

It’s also stirring up confusion over whether full-day kindergarten falls into the realm of optional programs for which schools can charge — or if it is standard curriculum for which fees are prohibited, according to the Rucker’s interpretation of the Indiana Constitution.

One family recently sued the Evansville-Vanderburgh school district for charging students in kindergarten through grade 12 a $20 school services fee. Rucker ruled that violated a constitutional clause guaranteeing public schooling without charge.

Chesterton activist Marjory Crawford is enthused that Rucker’s ruling set a judicial precedent in Indiana on school fees. * * *

Indiana Department of Education attorney Kevin McDowell feels charging kindergarten fees is unconstitutional as well. He sent a memo to all schools saying that as he interpreted Rucker’s ruling, no schools could charge for full-day kindergarten.

That led many Hoosier districts, including Hanover in Cedar Lake, to scrap full-day programs for next year.

Conflict of views

Hanover Superintendent Michael Livovich is frustrated. After his district voted to end the program, Superintendent Suellen Reed sent out a letter saying McDowell’s opinion didn’t mean that schools should change their fee programs.

“We need some more direction from the state. What we should do is unclear,” said Livovich, adding that the district would be willing to reverse its decision. “We just need her to tell us whether it’s legal to charge or not.” * * *

Unless legislators or Reed better define what’s to be included in free and public education, there won’t be a resolution — without more court battles.

Of course Gov. Mitch Daniels’ plans for state-defined full-day kindergarten could make the issue moot, but right now that plan remains a dream.

Bearce said McDowell’s memo targeted kindergarten because the state received so many inquiries about whether there could be fees for it.

There is much more to this story, but read it today, as the Gary paper does not archive.

See this May 13th ILB entry, also mentioning both the IDE attorney's May 1 memo and the later, contradictory, letter from Dr. Reed. The May 13th ILB entry points out that although the attorney opinion is posted on the DOE website, Dr. Reed's later letter is not posted.

That remains the case today.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 22, 2006 08:40 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions