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Guest Writer Sally Smith (Sally Smith Biography)

The San Diego Unified School District must inform parents of the fees required for IB courses, according to the California Department of Education (CDE). CDE stated that students cannot be required to pay any fee for end-of-course IB exams.

See CDE Ruling Document: IB FEES CDE JUNE 2015

Previously, the International Baccalaureate brochure on the district website stated:”PROVEN RESULTS” Award-winning Schools, Teachers and Students; Increased Test Scores; Higher GPAs”   The glossy brochures did not mention that  the IB diploma requires a hefty payment of nearly $2000.

The San Diego Unified School District touts the IB program as a pathway to college by earning a prestigious IB diploma and to gain admission to top notch colleges – a goal that parents want desperately for their children  and hopes that the touted ‘higher GPAs’  will earn scholarships for their children.

Corrective actions have yet to appear on district websites and brochures. The California Department of Education determined that:

By July 31 , 2015, the District must provide the CDE with evidence that its written communications to current and prospective lB students and parents contain thefollowing specific statement:

“A student can enroll in, attend, and fully participate in a course with an underlying IB component, including both regular coursework and lB prescribed coursework, and receive full course credit towards a high school diploma,  without paying any fee of any kind and without registering for, paying for or taking any end-of-course lB exams.” The District’s written communications to current and prospective lB students and parents must further be revised, as necessary, to ensure that they do not contain any statements that are inconsistent with the above statement.

All students entering the IB high schools have already been recruited, feeding in from  elementary  and middle schools. San Diego Unified communications to parents never included the information about the required exam fees of an application fee of  $160 plus  $110 exam fee per subject, as many as six courses in 11th and 12th grades.

There is a very low threshold for students to qualify for the Test Fee Program of  a $5 fee which does not reimburse the $160 application fee. Students are placed on payment plans which the administrators have no business imposing on public school students. In fact, checks have bounced because families did not have the money for the IB exams. Parents are in a worse position because their children are then placed on debtors’ lists and cannot participate in the graduation ceremony until the entire debt is paid off.

Read this bulletin posted at Mission Bay High School:

Periods 5 – 8
IB STUDENTS: IB exams fees are due by April 30th. Please pay Mr. Truong in the finance office. You may pick up a form in the IB office to check off which tests you are paying for. The tests are $108.00 each or if you are on free/reduced lunch the tests are $5.00 each. (I need to sign the form to verify free/reduced lunch status.) The IB exam is considered part of the curriculum. You will not get credit from IB if you do not take the exam. You are still responsible for the exams fees regardless if you take the exam or not. (Fitzpatrick 4/30)

Staff informs students that they agreed  to a 2 year program and must pay it. The school district cannot  implement an instructional program which has a for-fee component and staff cannot use their positions of authority to demand payment.

The financial assistance that middle-income students were supposed to receive by law have been swallowed up by teacher training and conferences benefitting the adults. Teachers enjoyed conferences in Hawaii while students struggled with the financial burden of the IB program.

The Education Code section 49011 and article IX, section 5 of the California Constitution. Those laws require K-12 public schools to offer educational activities to students and their families free of charge, and under such laws a “fee waiver” or “scholarship” program cannot cure unlawful pupil fees.

An email the UCSD admissions office states that its  admission practice does not “discriminate” against a student who cannot afford to take an IB examination because it does not require  that students take the examination. One option for students   applying  to UCSD is to use the “Additional Comments” box immediately preceding the “Academic History” section of the UC freshman admission application  to explain why they could not afford the cost of an IB examination.  The application readers will carefully review and consider, in context, all information the student provides in the admission application.

San Diego Unified has not provided any reports citing the number of students who have actually earned the IB diploma. This should be reported to parents so they can evaluate the IB program. Parents should be informed of the costs of the IB program. The CDE findings will benefit public school students and their families.