Public school for a price, background on AAPS cases

Aug 12, 2013

In June, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan wrote a letter to the Ann Arbor School Board after the Board approved charges of $100 per semester for students to take an additional class. 

Last week, two Pioneer High School students and their parents filed a law suit against Ann Arbor Public Schools, arguing that the fee is limiting for students who are involved in arts programs and who need the 7th hour to take classes required to graduate. 

The 7th hour fee was proposed because the school district faces an $18 million shortfall for the 2013-2014 year.  

But, as Annarbor.com's Amy Biolchini pointed out, this isn't the first time Ann Arbor schools have charged students.

In 1968, parents of two students filed a lawsuit against the district because of imposed fees on school activities and textbooks. They argued that charging students for textbooks, gym lockers, art supplies and more was unconstitutional. 

The case was Bond, et al v. Ann Arbor School District. Here's an excerpt from Biolchini's story:

The Washtenaw County Circuit Court ruled that all of the fees were unconstitutional -- but it upheld the district's fees for textbooks. The case was appealed to the state's high court, which ruled that all public schools must provide  textbooks for students with no fee. 

The decision prompted Ann Arbor Public Schools in 1970 to buy back textbooks from students at 50 percent of their original price to build its library. 

The Michigan Supreme Court's order also forced the district to refund $140,862, plus interest, to parents of students that had paid fees in the 1966-67 and 1967-68 school years. 

Biolchini spoke with the former superintendent, W. Scott Westerman Jr., who was working at AAPS during the Bond case.

Westerman commented, "our financial circumstance is making schools less than they should be."

-- Lucy Perkins, Michigan Radio News