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AGO 1953 No. 494 - March 12, 1953
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

SCHOOL DISTRICTS ‑- FEES ‑- FAILURE OF LEVY ‑- INSUFFICIENT FUNDS TO BUY SCHOOL SUPPLIES ‑- PUPILS REQUIRED TO PAY FEES ‑- SUPPLIES.

RCW 28.58.100 (7) prohibits a school district from collecting a fee from pupils to offset the cost of instructional materials which the district has undertaken to supply.

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                                                                  March 12, 1953 

Honorable John C. Merkel
Prosecuting Attorney
Kitsap County
Port Orchard, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 494

 Dear Sir:

             We are in receipt of your letter of March 4, 1953, in which you inquire:

             "Where a school district does not have sufficient funds to pay for the cost of instructional materials, may such school district levy and collect a fee of $3.00 per pupil to be used to partially offset the cost of instruction materials, including but not being limited to art paper, penmanship paper, chart paper, tagboard, paints, ink, modeling clay, yarn, paper fasteners, pins and other similar items?"

            It is our conclusion that the levy and collection of such a fee is unlawful.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

             RCW 28.58.100 provides, in part:

             "Every board of directors, unless otherwise specially provided by law, shall:

             "* * *   [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

"(7) Provide free textbooks and supplies to be loaned to the pupils of the school, when in its judgment the best interests of the district will be subserved thereby, * * *"

             It is our opinion that if, under the provisions of this statute, the school district undertakes to supply the pupils with instructional materials such as those enumerated in your correspondence, it must do so without charge.  If the school district has insufficient funds to supply these materials, it need not undertake to do so.  We are not unaware of the provision contained in RCW 28.62.180 (11), which requires that free textbooks and supplies must be provided by the board of a first class school district when ordered by a vote of the electors.  But since we have not been advised that such a mandate has been imposed by a vote of the electors, we express no opinion on what its effect would be.  However, seeHand v. School Dist. No. 1, 118 Wash. 439.

             If the school district finds that it has insufficient funds to supply textbooks and supplies to all students, the second subject treated by RCW 28.62.180 (11) must be considered.  Under that provision, children of indigent parents must, irrespective of any vote of the electors, be provided with free "books" on the written statement of the city superintendent that the parents of such children are not able to purchase them.  InAffholder v. State, 51 Neb. 91, cited in 17 A.L.R. 300, the term "textbooks" was held comprehensive enough to include globes, maps, charts, pens, ink, and paper and all other "apparatus and appliances which are proper to be used in the schools in instructing the youth."  This is authority for the conclusion that the school district must supply such indigent children not only with textbooks, but also with any other supplies that fall within the scope of the definition.

             This, however, has no effect upon our conclusion that the levy and collection of the proposed $3.00 fee is unlawful under the circumstances indicated in your letter.

 Very truly yours,
DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General 

WILLIAM C. HALLIN
Assistant Attorney General

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