Charging for Summer School Hits, Misses Across Nation

Private summer courses are creating a debate among the education crowd: is paying for summer school creating an educational disadvantage?

Recent budget cuts have caused schools to begin charging students for summer school all over the country. In 2010, California was sued by the ACLU when public schools began charging students for summer school, including charging for textbooks, but dropped the case when, in 2012, a new law required the state Department of Education to ensure schools are not charging illegal fees, writes Stephen Ceasar for The Los Angeles Times.

As a result, foundations, which are considered separate entities which simply communicate with local districts, began to offer summer classes.  There are currently about 675 operating in California.

“They’re a public school and we’re a fee-based school program,” said Andrea Sala, executive director of the Peninsula Education Foundation. “They don’t have any say in our curriculum — though it’s the same curriculum because it’s the same teacher — we run it independently.”

Students whose parents can afford the fees are able to take part in the courses in order to get ahead, clear up required courses, or retake a course for a better grade.

“It’s truly a stand-alone, private school for five weeks,” Dalbeck said. “We’re not a public school. We’re meeting a need that the students have — to be able to work ahead.”

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) had a $40 million budget for summer classes in 2007.  That budget dropped to $1 million last year, allowing the district to accommodate only 6,000 of its almost 198,000 high school students.  The district is one of many that receives no support from the foundations.

According to Janier Sandoval, an administrator for the district who helps coordinate the after-school and summer programs, the foundations place nearly 80% of the LAUSD’s students, who are low-income, at a disadvantage.

“Those who have money can have their students go to summer school, and those who can’t are stuck,” he said. “It sets up an inequitable system.”

Ronit Stone, president of the Beverly Hills Education Foundation, replied to the accusations by saying, “No one is required to take summer school.”

In Rhode Island, summer school is in full swing, acting as a fifth quarter with students participating five days a week to improve their grades.  Students pay $270 for each course, which nees at least 10 students to run.  This cost goes to paying the teachers and administration.  The school department does not budget any money for the program, writes Kelcy Dolan for The Warwick Beacon.

“We try and teach them to work independently. A lot of the time these kids fall back a bit and can’t catch back up. They get stuck in a hole and give up. Summer school can help those students realize how they can get out of that hole next time they are stuck,” Kathryn Newman, a teacher at the Toll Gate school, said.

Springfield, Missouri, is offering a federally funded summer school program which is geared toward helping its growing population of migrant children.  The district identified 60 such children this year, writes Claudette Riley for The Springfield News-Leader.

“They come to us with limited formal education and limited literacy in the home,” said Andrea Hellman, an instructor of childhood education and family studies at Missouri State University, who serves as an instructional coach for the program. “Some of them have spent years in refugee camps.”

The program offers small class sizes, no more than 10 students, which give the students the confidence they need to succeed.  The program is designed to fill in the educational gaps and offers students the academic foundations they will need in the coming school year.

The district is hoping to repeat the program next year, if it is successful.