By William J. Ford
A Prince George’s County Circuit Court judge asked whether plaintiffs in an ongoing summer school case would want the Maryland Department of Education to decide whether fees outside the regular school year are permissible.
Judge John Davey offered the recommendation on July 18 after the county’s attorney, Edmund O’Meally, suggested eight parents who filed a suit against the county should go before the state surrounding summer school fees.
As a result, the state education board scheduled two meetings, including one for Aug. 27.
“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, also director of the Howard University School of Law 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 from $125 for a half credit course up to $225 for full credit. Last year, the county charged $455 for summer school tuition. The specific request is for their children who qualify under free and reduce meals, also known as FARMS to help low-income students.
Howard Clinic, the ACLU of Maryland and Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll of northwest D.C. are supporting the current case.
The complaint highlights two 12th-grade students who need the summer school credits to complete high school. Another student in the eighth grade needs a summer school credit to advance in the ninth grade.
The summer school case mainly focuses on the core subjects of math, English and science.
Last month, both sides reached an agreement to waive the school fees before summer school started.
O’Meally mentioned in court how 17 public school systems in the state charge summer school tuition.
In neighboring Montgomery County, tuition costs $300 for one credit and free for those on free and reduced meals.
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 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.
The judge asked for a resolution, or a return to court by Wednesday, July 31. Summer school ends one day later on Thursday, Aug. 1.
This post originally appeared in the Washington Informer.