October 28, 2011

Urbandale to Stop Overcharging for Dual Enrollment

If the Urbandale School District sent you a letter saying that you must pay a $90 dual-enrollment fee by October 31 or you will be reported to a credit agency, relief may be on its way.

Urbandale charges a $90 fee to its own full-time students. It may be called a “book fee,” “textbook rental fee,” “student fee,” “overhead fee,” “activity fee,” or the like. It covers several types of actual per-student expenses the school district incurs.

But the school district has also been demanding that dual-enrolling homeschool families pay the entire $90 fee even if their student is taking only one class, is involved in only one program, or is involved in classes or programs that do not actually have a per-student expense. The district sometimes calls it a “registration fee,” and has threatened that it will report families to credit agencies if they do not pay the fee.

While many families have simply paid the fee—possibly fearing negative credit report consequences—others have challenged the school district. But the district has refused to change.

The Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators (NICHE) communicated with the Iowa Department of Education. The department attorney told NICHE that Urbandale should prorate the fee.

HSLDA Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff followed up with a faxed letter to the superintendent explaining that his policy violated the school district’s own written policy as well as state regulations. Woodruff pointed out that the Iowa Department of Education agreed that the policy was out of line.

The next morning, the family who had challenged the school system received a phone call from the superintendent thanking them for their persistence on the issue. He said the school would start prorating the fee. In his follow-up letter to Woodruff later that day, he said he would instruct his staff to charge only fees related to the actual courses taken.

This is a tremendous step in the right direction. The worst fee abuses should stop promptly. Hopefully the issues that remain will be resolved soon in an equitable manner.

If you are facing a deadline for payment of a fee, you should contact the school district immediately. If you do not receive a satisfactory response for your individual situation, contact us.