Fees for Extracurricular Activities

The California Constitution requires the Legislature to “provide for a system of common schools by which a free school shall be kept up and supported in each district . . . .” This provision entitles “the youth of the State . . . . to be educated at public expense.” (Ward v. Flood [1874] 48 Cal. 36. Also, “a pupil enrolled in a school shall not be required to pay any fee, deposit, or other charge not specifically authorized by law.” (Title 5, California Code of Regulations, Section 350.)

The California Supreme Court has ruled that “all educational activities–curricular or ‘extracurricular’–offered to students by school districts fall within the free school guarantee” of the state constitution. ( Hartzell v. Connell [1984]). The court held that a school district cannot charge fees for participation in “educational activities.” The disputed activities in that case were “dramatic productions, musical performances, and athletic competition.” The court stated: “Educational activities are to be distinguished from activities which are partly recreational in character. Examples of the latter might include attending weekend dances or athletic events.” What, exactly, are “educational activities” for which districts cannot charge fees? In a later decision the court stated that these are “activities which constitute an integral fundamental part of the elementary or secondary education or which amount to necessary elements of any school activities.” (Arcadia Unified School District v. State Department of Education [1992] which holds that districts may charge fees for pupil transportation.) This standard means that districts cannot charge fees for activities related to education. Examples of activities for which the district might charge fees would include tickets to dances, tickets to watch school athletics, and tickets to end of the year-end graduation parties.