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Eye On Boise

In limited ruling, court agrees with Joki that school fees are unconstitutional

A West Ada school trustee is claiming legal victory over the district in a three-year-old lawsuit over student fees. Idaho EdNews reports that Russell Joki filed the case in October 2012, challenging fees he paid to West Ada schools on behalf of three grandchildren — one student at Meridian High School, and two kindergartners at Chief Joseph Elementary School. He argued that the fees violated the Idaho Constitution, which requires the state to provide a free, common and thorough public school system.

Fourth District Judge Richard Greenwood agreed that fees for regular school classes are unconstitutional, and rejected arguments from the district that allowing families who can’t afford to pay to seek a waiver was adequate. “The fact that the fees may be waived in the discretion of the principal … does not render them constitutional,” the judge wrote. Idaho Education News reporter Kevin Richert has a full report here, including a link to the judge’s decision.

While siding with Joki on key points about the constitutionality of the fees, Greenwood, for procedural reasons, didn’t issue any injunction blocking such fees in the future. While Joki had originally sought to file the suit as a class-action lawsuit affecting all schools in the state, it was reduced to just his family and school district; he and his family could get a refund of up to $175 in fees. Either side still could appeal the case to the Idaho Supreme Court.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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