Proof of date of birth.
While schools have the right to ask for proof of the birthdate of a child (to either ensure that the child is 5 on or by September 15 or that the child is under age 21), nothing in state or federal law gives a school the authority to insist upon the original or a copy of a birth certificate. A school may insist on some type of proof of birthdate, but that proof can be an adoption record, statement of a physician, or any reliable document. If a parent/guardian won't produce any type of proof of his/her child's birthdate and if you have some question as to whether the child is of school age, just explain to the parent/guardian that you have to have some proof of age before the child may attend school.
Payment of fees.
If a parent/guardian does not qualify for a total or partial fee waiver but simply refuses to pay registration or other fees, the school must still enroll the child. The only remedy available to the school is to sue the parent/guardian in small claims court. The filing fee to the clerk of court has gone up to $50, but that's recoverable by the school in the judgment. In fact, just sending notice to the parent/guardian that you intend to file and that the court costs will be assessed against them may be enough to get them to pay what they owe the school.
For participation in extracurricular activities.
There is a 20+-year-old Iowa Attorney General Opinion (#81-8-29) that is still valid. It states that no student shall be charged for the privilege of participating in an extracurricular activity. However, the Opinion continues, that does not prohibit a district from charging fees for "school supplies" if applicable to the activity. For example, a towel fee may be appropriately charged to participants in athletics who use the school showers and locker room. On the other hand, no fee may be charged for a supply that is essential to the activity. No passing along to students the cost of new basketballs for the basketball teams.
A few districts still require students to purchase an activity card to allow them to attend extracurricular events. A district may not mandate that students buy activity tickets or cards. Certainly, a district may charge those students who desire to buy an activity card. But it is crossing the line to make all students buy such a card.Amount of fee.
When a district does lawfully charge a fee, the amount is not "whatever the market will bear." No. The fee is based on the district's cost. A district may not make a profit from fees.
Booster clubs charging fees.
A booster club shall not charge a fee that the district itself cannot charge. They can and should continue to collect contributions for the club to donate to the district, but they should stay away from fees.
Foreign Exchange Students.
Just a reminder that a district may not include these students in its enrollment count. A district MUST charge tuition for students on an F-1 visa, and MAY charge tuition for those on a J-1 visa.
Proof of Residency
Whether a district enrolls a student tuition-free depends on whether the student is a "resident" of the district, as defined in Iowa Code § 282.6. This section defines a resident as a student who is physically in the district and who meets any of the following conditions:
- Is in the district for the purpose of making a home and not solely for school purposes.
- E.g., a student may live with someone other than a parent or guardian and still be a resident of the district if the student is living in the district because of family problems or personal problems unrelated to school.
- On the other hand, a student who lives with non-parents to play sports for the district or because the student was not doing well academically at his/her former district is living in the district for school purposes. In this case, the district MUST charge tuition to enroll the student.
- Guardianship does NOT automatically make a student a resident of the district in which the guardian lives. The district must still ascertain why the student is living with the guardian. If it's to go to school in the guardian's district, the district must charge tuition.
- Meets the definition of a "homeless individual."
- Lives in a residential correctional facility, juvenile detention center, or foster care in the district.
Section 282.6 does allow a local board of education the discretion to determine "hardship" cases and to waive tuition in such cases. However, waiving tuition for hardship reasons DOES NOT allow the district to include that student in its count. The student is still not a resident of the district, so the district may not receive state aid for the student.
Aliens, Legal or Illegal
These children, if living with their families, are residents of the district in which they reside, regardless of whether they are aliens and even regardless of whether the family's presence in the U.S. is legal. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 30+ years ago that a free education must be provided to resident students, even if they are illegal aliens. A district CANNOT require any documents regarding these students that it would/could not request from any other family. That is, proof of birthdates and relevant health information may be requested. Period.