Is Burbank “privatizing” its extracurricular arts programs in order to circumvent the law?


In light of the big trouble that Burbank got into a few years ago about charging illegal fees for its “extra-curricular” high school activities — as also mentioned in the following news article — did they ever in fact reform their practices in this area, as also described?

We’re getting word from parents about how expensive the high school music programs are in Burbank. How could this still be but that the district is using their 501(c)(3) Vocal Music Association “booster group” to set up participation activities on the outside so as to avoid the legal restrictions on charging fees?

Was that the BUSD’s solution here? Other school districts around the country have done so, and to much debate. Many people feel that allowing outside organizations to operate for a fee what used to be a regular public school program is both unwise and unfair. We agree.

Unable to charge fees, schools brace for shift in extracurricular programs

Legal settlement bars public schools from charging student fees, and proposed legislation would require all materials and equipment to be provided free. Some schools say they’ll have to scrap programs.


May 10, 2011|By Megan O’Neil, Los Angeles Times

Local education officials this week said they are bracing for a dramatic shift in how extracurricular activities are funded, the result of a lawsuit settlement that bars schools and their affiliates from charging students fees for such programs as sports teams, musical ensembles and cheer squads.

California education officials in December settled a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against dozens of campuses, including John Burroughs High in Burbank, alleging that charging students for educational materials and activities violates a constitutional mandate that public school districts provide free and equitable education to all students.

The Legislature is now considering a law to impose penalties on districts where fees have been charged illegally. It also mandates that all educational and extracurricular supplies, materials and equipment be provided free of charge.

The new rules would also apply to booster clubs, foundations and community organizations that provide support to a school.

If approved, the rules would be disastrous for districts already strapped for cash, local officials said.

“Our district and our schools will need to rely more heavily on voluntary donations to preserve the same level of educational opportunities that students have enjoyed in the past,” said Glendale Unified Deputy Supt. John Garcia. “There are a lot of practices now — not just in our district, but in districts all throughout the state — that are going to have to be changed as a result of this legislation when and if it passes.”

Districts will be audited on student fees in the next school year, Garcia said.

Burbank Unified, which was named in the original ACLU lawsuit, has already set in motion an effort to bring its funding of extracurricular activities in line with new policies.

Brendan Jennings, choir director at Burroughs High, said his program dropped student fees about 18 months ago. Voluntary parent contributions and parent- and student-led fundraising now cover the costs, he said, which vary widely student to student but can sometimes run as a high as $3,000.

His program has long had a safety net that ensures all students can participate, regardless of their socioeconomic status, Jennings said.

But others said the ACLU lawsuit would cause more long-term harm than good, and threatens programs that some families are happy to pay for.

Glendale Unified has tried to sustain its music and visual and performing arts programs despite years of budget cuts, said school board member Mary Boger.

“We are going to have to give them up because they are going to be become cost-prohibitive,” she said. “That to me is an absolutely chilling effect.”

Officials at Los Angeles Unified, which was not named in the lawsuit, have said the district already prohibits supplementary charges, including voluntary participation fees for extracurricular activities. But some parents have complained that individual schools and programs have stretched the boundaries of that policy.

Times staff writer Howard Blume contributed to this report.

As we pointed out yesterday, one problem with this outsider shell-thing is that the school district loses much of its control over the operation.  Need we reference a recent consequence?

Btw, looking back, we notice that we kind of predicted this sort of trickiness-for-profit.

Here’s the rules about fees in general. But school districts can still allow outsiders to offer their own enrichment programs, even on campus. So what’s happening in Burbank, and why are local parents claiming that these arts activities are often a great expense?






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8 responses to “Is Burbank “privatizing” its extracurricular arts programs in order to circumvent the law?

  1. Burbank IMHO

    The answer to your question “Is Burbank “privatizing” its extracurricular arts programs in order to circumvent the law?”

    The answer is: Maybe.

    Detroit sent a level 5 shock wave through this country’s local governments. So anytime a local government can outsource to the private sector it relieves the city of lifetime benefits packages; i.e. pensions and health care.

    A very tempting alternative to our elected officials rather than perpetually raising taxes and fees to pay these retirees retirement packages. Especially since people are now living into their 90’s.

    So all the city pays for is the service the private company provided and that’s it. Easy to budget for and no long term economic consequences.

    By and large, Burbank has successfully put privatizing off, but in my opinion we will reach a point where we will have no alternative. The services go to shit with privatizing, but get ready it’s coming.

    • H

      They really have made a mess out of everything. Face it their retirements are above and beyond what the non-government worker gets and they have overseen a collapsing system.

      • semichorus

        What some non-government worker make NOW in retirement.

        A lot of companies still have good pension plans, which are totally necessary for the retired. But many companies are now screwing their workers by getting rid of them. The solution is not to throw the teachers in this same pile.

        Remember too that Burbank teachers don’t get Social Security — unless they had other jobs. And even then they get screwed out of most of that through various offsets. So teacher pensions are all they have.

    • DixieFlyer

      Whole different problem.

      The local issue is a masquerade game.

      Privatizing and Outsourcing are admitted problems to contemplate, this mess is a contrived one.

      • semichorus

        Yeah, I put the word privatizing in quotes because it only aims toward that trend. What’s going on here in Burbank is not privatizing so much as it the deliberate establishment of a shell outfit to run programs in a way that the district can not.

        But it’s the same idea–let outsiders now do what we once did willingly.

  2. Craig Sherwood

    It is actually very tough to run a sports program in these conditions. I agree with what the law was intended for – not making a student pay for something in a mandatory core class that they must take to graduate. However, when a student CHOOSES to try out for a sport as an optional activity, we are put under the same guidelines. We are under the gun to raise money and we are not allowed to charge a fee or require any player do any fundraising. All the school gives us is a field, 2 and a half coach stipends for three teams and only pay 60% of the charge for buses to take players to a game. We have to pay for our own field supplies, balls, uniforms and any other items needed to play for a season. This law has been taken too far, was not thought out properly and it will probably mean the end of high school sports in the next 10 years.

    • semichorus

      Team sports never used to be an optional activity in Burbank. I can’t believe the school board is refusing to subsidize these programs 100 percent like they used to do — excluding the awards jackets and banquets and such that the boosters always used to pay for, etc.

      These outside “booster” groups/corporations have obviously allowed our local school districts to get away with murder. The schools have gotten much too spoiled by them, and it needs to stop.

      I was amazed at the extent of this negligent behavior in Burbank. I knew about problems in Orange County, but not here.

      • DixieFlyer

        It helps for the Coach to paint the “real” picture of CIF sports in today’ world.

        Young men and women study AND participate in the various programs offered in the BUSD.

        We need to keep our eyes and ears open.

        Thanks, Coach.

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