Bill would prevent school districts from sending unpaid fees to collections

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Democratic San Diego Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher has introduced a bill in the legislature that would prevent school districts from playing hardball with families over unpaid school fees, such as bus, lunch, and library fees.

California is one of just 12 states in the country which allows public schools to charge for bus service.  San Diego Unified is one of the biggest school districts in the state to use the collections process against families who do not pay.

"There's no reason to start wrecking people's credit scores over their kids going to school," Gonzalez-Fletcher told 10News in an interview Wednesday from her Sacramento office.

SDUSD tells 10News that while most school districts in California have cut back drastically on transportation, it continues to make free bus service available to most riders.  All students who qualify for free or reduced lunch costs also qualify for free bus service. So while only 10% of all SDUSD students ride the bus, 75% of those students qualify for free transportation, leaving just 25% to pay the $500 annual fee.

Gonzalez-Fletcher says only a few hundred families have their cases sent to debt collectors each year, but she says SDUSD should come up with a better way of working with families to pay their debts. "It seems very petty, in a way, and doesn't seem like the best way to get installment payments from parents who are struggling a little bit."

The bill still needs to go through the committee process before it goes to the Assembly for a full vote.

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