School district bills parents when children miss class

first_imgSCOTTS VALLEY, Calif. – Frustrated by children missing class for long weekend ski trips and jaunts to Disneyland, the local school district is trying a novel approach to persuade parents to keep them in school. It’s sending them bills – $36.13 per day. The bills are merely a request for reimbursement; no one is actually required to pay. But some parents in the well-to-do community 30 miles south of Silicon Valley are handing over the money, seeing it as a way to ease a guilty conscience. Others, though, say the request borders on rudeness in a state where nearly half the annual budget – $66billion – already is devoted to education. “I tossed it. It’s a public school. I’m not going to be told to pay when I have my kids out,” said Helene Handy, who received the initial notice explaining the new policy three times – once each from her children in elementary, middle and high school. “We’ve got to have a better way to pay for our schools.” The issue is tied to California’s complex system of funding its public schools, in which how much a school receives is based on how many students are in class on any given day. When parents take their children out of class for family play days, their schools lose money. The district sent a letter in January to parents, titled “If You Play, Please Pay.” It was intended as much to alert parents to the financial consequences for schools as it was to solicit donations, said Brenda Spalding, assistant to Superintendent Susan Silver. “Are the ski slopes calling? Is the beach beckoning? Are you taking the kids to Disneyland midweek to avoid the crowds?” the letter asked. “If so, we would encourage you to reconsider. When your child misses school, there are consequences for the student and the district.” Later, it added, “Make your check payable to Scotts Valley Unified School District.” Stan Wilson didn’t think twice about taking his children, Connor, 6, and Courtney, 8, to Hawaii for a week with his extended family earlier this school year, even if it meant they would miss five days at Vine Hill Elementary. When the family returned, the Wilsons received the letter from the district asking for compensation, which would have totaled more than $360. Wilson happily gave even more, writing a check for $500. The tax-deductible “donation” was a bargain compared with the private school tuition he and his wife were prepared to pay before they decided to keep their children in public school, Wilson said. “We saved so much money, we decided it was fair,” he said.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more