The Discovery Channel has “Shark Week,” so we’ve decided to make this “D-64 Week.”
And you thought sharks were scary.
Now that D-64 has once again jacked up its tax levy by a vote of 6-1 (Board member Dathan Paterno dissenting), we thought we would take a look at a very simple financial issue that, nevertheless, has remained unresolved by the D-64 brain trust for over a year since we last wrote about it in our post “Herd Mentality Does Not Justify D-64′s Bovine Thinking On Student Fees”: school fees.
We got a couple of over-the-transom inquiries about this topic, apparently because it became a sidebar discussion in connection with a tax levy post last week (December 10) on the Park Ridge Citizens Online Facebook page. According to comments on that blog, D-64’s continuing lackadaisical efforts to collect unpaid fees has left over $100,000 due and owing.
One complaint that those who don’t pay at all (we like to call them “freeloaders”) share with a smaller group of critics who claim to be paying under protest, is that D-64 has failed and refused to provide itemized statements of what the fees cover. One might have expected that by now, more than a year after folks like Kathy Ranalli and George Korovilas began railing about it, D-64’s administrators – hello, overpaid (over $215,000/year) Business Manager Rebecca Allard– might have actually done that.
The transparency-challenged D-64 administration can’t quite seem to fess up and tell the parents of D-64 students for what exactly it is that they’re paying $84, or $227, or $315 of annual fees – even though parents reportedly are being charged only around 55% of the total cost of those unidentified/un-itemized materials and services for which the fees are assessed. And our alleged “representatives” on the School Board seem totally disinterested in forcing the reluctant administrators to disclose this information. Or maybe it’s yet another case of the Board being totally intimidated by the “education professionals.”
That’s just plain stupid and irresponsible. Unfortunately, stupid and irresponsible seems to be D-64’s default setting – as demonstrated by its decision to switch from a parent-paid monitoring program for students who stay at school for lunch, which will now cost the District (a/k/a, the taxpayers) another-$400,000.
But let’s not kid ourselves about one main fact.
Even if D-64’s Board and administration actually did the right thing and provided parents with a list of fees itemized down to the penny, the freeloader contingent would still rail about how charging ANY fees violates the Illinois constitution’s requirement that students be provided a “free” education. That’s because those shameless freeloaders have no problem insisting that their kids are entitled to “free” $14,000/student/year educations because they pay taxes: $3-4-5-6,000 to D-64 on a total property tax bill of $9-12-15-18,000, respectively.
And from our experience, it’s the ones running two or three of their kids through the schools – at at total cost of $28,000-42,000 a year worth of education for that same $3-4-5-6,000 of property taxes – who beef the loudest about paying a few hundred dollars in fees. They’re also the ones who occasionally threaten legal action against the District if it takes any collection action against their freeloading.
As if these freeloaders would actually dig into their own pockets to pay several thousand dollars of legal fees when then won’t even pay $84 of school fees!
But in the hope of taking at least one more bogus argument off the table regarding this fee issue – that fees are “illegal” – we direct your attention to the case of Beck v. Board of Education of Harlem Consolidated School District No. 122, an Illinois Supreme Court decision from 1976 that appears to still be the law of this state.
The father of some students sued the school board for charging him fees for school supplies and materials furnished his children, arguing that such charges were illegal. Our Supreme Court said he was wrong, relying on its prior decisions that traced the concept of “free schools” from Illinois’ achieving statehood in 1818 in order to ascertain the intent of the Illinois constitution and statutes relevant to state-provided education.
Rather than our paraphrasing the Court’s reasoning, here is exactly how then-Justice Goldenhersh explained it:
[P]arents of pupils financially able to do so have been required to provide their children with textbooks, writing materials and other supplies prescribed by the school board and required for the personal use of the students. ( 47 Ill.2d 480, 486—90, 265 N.E.2d 616.) Sections 10—20.5 and 10—20.8 of the School Code (Ill.Rev.Stat.1973,*16 ch. 122, pars. 10—20.5 and 10—20.8) respectively authorize the board to adopt and enforce all necessary rules for the management and government of the school, and to direct what branches of study shall be taught and what apparatus shall be used. Under these sections defendant was authorized to require parents financially able to do so to provide their children with educational materials and supplies for use by them or on their behalf. We are of the opinion that defendant was authorized to accomplish the same result by purchasing the necessary materials and supplies, apportioning the cost among the pupils, and charging those parents who were financially able to pay, and we so hold. We also hold that because some of the materials were used by more than one pupil or by a teacher or administrator, or that they might be retained as school property and used for more than one school year did not serve to convert the fee charged into a tuition charge. Tuition is defined as ‘the price of or payment for instruction’ (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (1961)), and, clearly, the fee charged plaintiff’s children was not part of the price of, or payment for, instruction.
That surely won’t please the freeloader contingent, but nothing less than “free” (compliments of their fellow taxpayers) ever does.
So unless somebody has some more convincing legal authority than the Beck decision, it’s time that D-64 told the scofflaw parents to pay up or be subject to the full panoply of lawful collection efforts – except for those precious few parents who can actually demonstrate that they are not “financially able to pay.”
Or if D-64 wants to spare the taxpayers the costs of such additional collection efforts, it should simply publish the names and addresses of all these “fee freeloaders” so that their friends and neighbors might know them.
That way, the friends and neighbors who are covering those costs can thank them personally for their freeloader-ship.
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