A Prince George’s County Circuit Court judge asked whether plaintiffs in ongoing summer school case would want the Maryland Department of Education to decide whether tuition fees outside the regular school year are permissible.
Judge John P. Davey offered the recommendation in court Thursday after the county’s attorney, Edmund J. O’Meally, suggested eight parents who filed a suit against the county should go before the state on charging summer school fees.
“The state board decides many, many issues affecting public education in the state of Maryland,” O’Meally said after the hearing. “Whether summer school is an integral part of the educational program, that’s a question for the state board. Right now, [state] regulations say it’s discretionary.”
Amjel Quereshi, an attorney for the parents and their children, said he must confer with his clients on whether to go before the state. In addition, he said they are granted “constitutional exception” to hear the case in court without going to the state.
“Often times, government agencies are biased with the other governmental bodies that they worked with,” said Quereshi, who is also director of the Howard University School of Law’s Civil Rights Center. “For that explicit reason, individuals are allowed to go into court without going to the agency.”
The parents filed a suit against the county public school system because it would be hard to pay the fee, which range from $125 for a half-credit course to $225 for a full credit. Last year, the county charged $455 for summer school tuition. The specific request is for their children who qualify for free and reduced-price meals, also known as FARMS to help low-income students.
Howard Clinic, the ACLU of Maryland and D.C.-based law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll are supporting the current case.
The complaint cites two 12th-graders who need the summer school credits to graduate. Another student in the eighth grade needs a summer school credit in order to advance in the ninth grade.
Last month, both sides reached an agreement to waive the school fees before summer school started.
In court, O’Meally mentioned that 17 other public school systems in the state charge for summer school.
In neighboring Montgomery County, tuition costs $300 for one credit and free for those on free and reduced meals. In another neighboring jurisdiction, Anne Arundel County, middle and high school students are charged the same $300 fee. Families on public assistance would pay $100 for each course.
According to the Baltimore City public schools website, the fee is $75 for students in the city, $500 for those who attend a charter school and $700 for students who reside outside the city.
The judge asked for a resolution, or come back to court by July 31. Summer school ends one day later.