An Arizona school district with a program that charges parents a fee for child care in classrooms, while instruction is delivered online, is being challenged by the American Center for Law and Justice.
On its website, the ACLJ explained that “some public schools” are “telling parents that while it’s not safe for their children to return to school due to the Coronavirus, they can come to the SAME BUILDINGS as a ‘childcare’ center . . . for an additional fee.”
“That’s right: schools that have been deemed unsafe for students and teachers to attend for normal taxpayer-funded classes are somehow perfectly fine for childcare if you pay extra. If a family has three children, that’s nearly $500 out of pocket for one week, on top of the taxes they’re already paying that support these schools. And based on the last few months, it seems very likely the closures will continue to be extended, as will those fees,” an article by ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow states.
“Multiple school districts in the state, including the Gilbert Public Schools (GPS) — made up of 39 individual schools from Kindergarten through High School — have notified parents that schools will not be opening as planned this fall, and their children must participate in virtual learning until on-campus learning is cleared to resume,” Sekulow wrote.
But parents with enough money can still have their children in a classroom.
“However, they are offering a temporary daily ‘childcare’ service for students in Kindergarten through 8th Grade, held inside 9 of the district’s elementary schools, for a cost of $160 per child for the week,” Sekulow wrote.
On its website, Gilbert Public Schools said it has “created a tremendous system with focus on student and staff health, including curbside dropoff/pickup, smaller grouping of students, daily staff health screenings, increased cleaning protocols and a variety of other strategic adjustments aligned to the health needs of our community.”
Its website states that the child care program offers “structured times for online coursework completion and support.” The program was scheduled to start Aug. 5 and be available until children are able to resume in-person instruction, the district’s website states.
The school district did not respond to an emailed request for comment for this story. An update on the ACLJ website dated Tuesday states that the organization has contacted the district’s attorney to try to negotiate a settlement to the situation.
To Sekulow, who noted that his clients include parents with children in the Gilbert school district, what the district is doing is like charging parents fees for what taxes already fund.
“Whatever you call this — and we think it sure sounds like ‘school’ or ‘education’ — the net result on parents is the same: they must pay for their child to have classroom access on school premises during school hours,” Sekulow wrote.
In a letter sent to the school district, ACLJ argued that “GPS’s action to require payment for the provision of classroom access on school premises during school hours … violates the Arizona constitution.”
The letter stated that the Arizona constitution’s assurance of free access to public school classrooms should not be violated.
The ACLJ is calling upon the school to provide access to the classroom for no charge to the child of its client for at least the hours that school would be in session.
“What we see happening in Arizona, offering those families childcare (or online education in the classroom) at an additional price, is unacceptable. Using the resources available to offer childcare during this tough time is one thing. But to take the people’s tax dollars, not provide the intended service, AND then demand more money to provide an alternative service is just plain wrong. It should stop immediately. Our legal team is reviewing the situation and will be prepared to take further legal action if necessary,” Sekulow wrote.
“We’re simply stating the obvious: if school districts are unable to provide traditional public education because of the pandemic, then they need to come up with creative alternatives (not charge more money) to help ensure that students come first and that parents have educational options and the resources they need to provide the best education for their children,” he wrote.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.