A preliminary hearing set for next month in Prince George’s County Circuit Court could determine whether the county’s public school system can continue to charge summer school fees to low-income families.
In the meantime, eight parents who filed a suit reached an agreement last week with the school system to forego summer school fees, which are $125 for each half-credit course and $225 for a full-credit course.
“We believe that no student should pay for required courses in summer school when the courses are free during the regular school year, anyway,” said Deborah Jeon, legal director of the ACLU of Maryland. “We question the legal grounds because the [state] Constitution requires public school education be free.”
The complaint specifies two 12th-grade students who need the summer school credits to graduate from high school.
Another student needs a summer school credit in order to advance to the ninth grade.
The agreement also permits students who qualify for free and reduced-priced meals to join the complainants to have their summer school fees waived. During the July 18 hearing, the judge may possibly review whether the school system can charge the fees for all students.
Summer school registration for day classes ends June 29, with classes scheduled to start July 8. Evening classes began June 24.
The ACLU, Howard University School of Law Civil Rights Clinic and D.C.-based Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll are supporting the case.
Last year, the ACLU and Howard clinic joined four county parents who challenged the school board over the summer school tuition, then $455. The school board voted this year to decrease the fees to the current amounts.
One day after a judge signed the agreement on June 17, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks announced that interim schools CEO Monica Goldson would permanently assume the role.
Goldson, supported by various school, county and state officials at the Wayne K. Curry Administration Building in Largo, responded to a reporter’s question regarding the summer school case.
She also said more than a dozen other school systems charge summer school tuition.
In neighboring Montgomery County, it’s $300 for one credit and free for those who are eligible for free and reduced-price 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.
Baltimore County public schools charge $150 for half-credit courses and $275 for one credit, according to the school system’s website. The fee for a one-credit course increases to $425 for non-county residents.
According to the Baltimore City public school website, it’s $75 for students in the city, $500 for those who attend a charter school and $700 for students who reside outside the city.
At least three area jurisdictions don’t charge for summer school.
“It’s unfortunate that they have decided to use Prince George’s County Public Schools as a test,” Goldson said. “We will make sure we respond to their call and we will provide the evidence to show that the decisions that we’ve made are accurate.”