Judge rules class fees unconstitutional

Posted at 9:57 PM, Nov 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-17 23:57:15-05

MERIDIAN - Another big change could be on the way for West Ada schools. A district judge says the district needs to foot the bill for fees currently charged to parents. The ruling comes after a 3-year lawsuit from school board member Russ Joki.

When Russ Joki registered his grandchildren for their public education, he didn't understand why he was charged nearly 100 dollars in class fees.  And three years ago, he, along with other plaintiffs, filed a lawsuit against any school district charging fees for class materials.

Classroom supplies for chemistry, for advanced sports medicine, for art, for foreign language, for biology. My hope is with this ruling at the district court level, this district, in the next go-around of registering students, will discontinue this practice of charging fees. This court has declared this unconstitutional,” said Joki.

On Monday, District Court Judge Richard Greenwood said it’s up to the school district to pay, and not the parents.

"In 1971, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled that fees for any necessary element of a child’s education had to be free under the Idaho constitution. Well, Judge Greenwood has agreed with the Supreme Court's 1971 ruling,” said Joki.

“The Idaho constitution does provide for a thorough and free education, but since the 1800's when the public constitution was written, thorough has come to mean a lot more. There’s computer science, and technical professional classes, and engineering classes. The question is: how do you pay for those?” said Eric Exline, West Ada School District Spokesman.

Exline  said the class fees that parents pay have been in place for decades.

“This particular ruling puts our board in a position where they have to decide whether to appeal the decision. That’s a legal choice, or to look at our fee structure, and do something different with our fee structure that is more in line with what this ruling has to say,” said Exline.

“I was hoping when I was filing this case three years ago, that we would give relief to moms and dads, who were having to shell out money for elements of a public school education that the district, any district in Idaho, was supposed to pay, free of charge,” said Joki.