By Janet Stephenson
For now, it looks like Conejo Valley Unified School District has dug in its heels and is not budging on summer school fees. Conejo Valley Unified School District’s active partnership with Conejo Schools Foundation in requiring pupil fees for summer school through the Get Ahead fundraiser now appears to be something that only a Uniform Complaint and the Department of Education will be able to resolve. As it stands, the Conejo Valley Unified School District’s board which includes a Conejo Schools Foundation board member and a Conejo Schools Foundation executive director, refuses to even bring the item up for discussion or investigation. In the meantime, the impact of the Conejo Valley Unified School District/Conejo Schools Foundation partnership will continue.
And the impact is truly unfortunate. Only students from low income families, or who are financially struggling with a budget, are excluded from getting ahead in summer school within our own district. Because they can’t afford the steep tuition/donation, which is a higher cost than college level courses, they are left out of the educational opportunities of getting ahead in summer school, and deprived of the opportunity to clear their regular school schedules to advance further in science and mathematics by their graduation date. Taking extra courses in the summer to reach a higher level of mathematics and science would help them to be more competitive in college selection and scholarships, something that lower income and financially struggling families could really use. Unfortunately, the Conejo Valley Unified School District’s partnership with Conejo Schools Foundation only allows those that can afford to pay to have those opportunities to advance, and Conejo Valley Unified School District is digging its heels in on defending that inequity.
Conejo Schools Foundation is no passive recipient of donations from Conejo Schools Foundations’ Get Ahead fundraiser. The district pays the lion’s share of expenses for the fundraiser, providing facilities, textbooks, learning resources, hardware, software, staff, and equipment. The district shares the same address and phone number as the foundation, giving them free space and utilities. Conejo Valley Unified School District is actively partnering in this fundraiser that requires, not requests, tuition/donations from students to participate in educational activities.
So the questions are these:
Why is this something Conejo Valley Unified School District wants to support and defend?
Why does it want to dodge the requirements of free education under AB 1575?
Why wouldn’t Conejo Valley Unified School District want to enforce its authorization agreement with Conejo Schools Foundation to make the donation voluntary so that all students could participate in summer school?
Conejo Valley Unified School District has the power to change this through enforcement of the contract and the withholding of resources until Conejo Schools Foundation complies. Why is it so important to Conejo Valley Unified School District to exclude a population of students who could really use this opportunity to advance, forcing them to look outside of the district?
Kicking students who are eager to learn outside of the district to find resources that are available within their own district is inequitable, unfair, and creates a two tier system of education – the haves and have nots. Why is this important to Conejo Valley Unified School District and why don’t they care about the opportunities of all students, no matter their income level or financial struggles?
Janet Stephenson is a resident of Thousand Oaks