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Apodaca: AB 165 makes schools nervous

May 13, 2011|By Patrice Apodaca

Parents all over Newport-Mesa know the drill. Suzie wants to play soccer for the school team, so Dad ponies up hundreds of dollars to a booster club out of fear that she won't get any game time otherwise.

Or Johnny announces that he needs to buy a copy of "MacBeth" for English class, so Mom makes a late-night run to Barnes & Noble to nab the last copy on the shelf.

If Assembly Bill 165 passes, as expected, those types of practices — generally known as "pay to play" — could land a district in big trouble. And that's why Newport-Mesa school officials are scrambling to launch a preemptive strike by devising a comprehensive plan, and educating staff, faculty and parents regarding precisely what will be allowed, should the bill become law.

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It's a mind-numbing task that's being led by Charles Hinman, the district's assistant superintendent of secondary education.

In the past two weeks, I've seen Hinman turn up at Corona del Mar High School's PTA meeting to help Principal Tim Bryan attempt to explain the legislation and its expected impact. The administrators were peppered with questions, which they handled with aplomb, but they also made it clear that much is at stake if the district messes up.

Hinman also gave a presentation on the issue at this week's school board meeting, where he was joined by Thomas Antal, Newport-Mesa's director of secondary curriculum and instruction, in trying to outline how the proposed law would affect the way teachers, coaches and parent fundraising groups operate.

They had barely begun their presentation before board members began firing questions. At one point the queries centered on a hypothetical art project, and the discussion grew so convoluted as the board members struggled to understand who can pay what and when — well, I got lost after about the third "what if."

That this legislation comes along at a time when districts are struggling with budget cuts only adds to the nervousness felt by school officials. There's understandable concern that the types of fundraising activities that schools have come to rely on as budgets have shrunk will take a hit. That would mean cutting back on some programs that enrich students' education, creating additional pressure on cash-strapped schools.

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