Dragon Press cancels annual trip as result of new bill


Lorrie Lynn

Dragon Press staffer Karina Schink (left) and Assistant Editor in Chief Allison Clark (right) planned on attending journalism trips that were cancelled due to AB 1575. Credit: Aysen Tan/The Foothill Dragon Press
Dragon Press staffer Karina Schink (left) and Assistant Editor in Chief Allison Clark (right) planned on attending journalism trips that were cancelled due to AB 1575. Credit: Aysen Tan/The Foothill Dragon Press

For the past few years, Ventura Unified School District students have heard about the financial strain within the district. This year, this awareness has been brought to a new level as a result of Assembly Bill 1575, a piece of legislation whose formation was prompted by a civil lawsuit brought forward in 2010.

The Dragon Press interviewed Brooks Allen, director of eduation advocacy for the Southern California ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), about the bill, which reinforces existing legislation that states it is against California law to ask students to pay fees for classroom or extracurricular activities.

Allen supports the bill because he believes it reinforces the idea of a free public education for all Californians. {sidebar id=60}

“Ensuring that the Free School Guarantee is meaningful and that its [California’s] schools really are free continues to ensure that all students regardless of their family’s financial status and income are able to exercise their right to education on an equal basis,” he said.” It gives everyone an equal chance to succeed.”

Foothill’s journalism program, in addition to many other Foothill organizations, will be affected by AB 1575.

Supporters of the bill argue that it has the potential to help students who don’t have the means to participate activities, for example the annual Foothill Dragon Press trip to the National Scholastic Press Association conference in November.

“The point of the public school system is that students have equal opportunities, and the idea behind this bill is to help that ideal,” says Foothill Assistant Principal, Carlos Cohen.

However, the school district lacks the funds to provide these extracurricular opportunities, and this has become a source of frustration among students and teachers alike.

Allison Clark, assistant editor in chief of the Dragon Press, is concerned about the effect this bill may have on the journalism program, saying that she would be extremely disappointed if she and the Dragon Press would not be able to go to the annual conferences, in Clark’s case, a trip to New York City in March.

“I, for one, have been saving my money for over a year so that I can participate in this trip, and I know many others have been doing the same. It would be a huge let down if we aren’t able to go,” she said.

Upon hearing about AB 1575, Karina Schink, another member of the Dragon Press, contacted a close family friend who practices law and asked if he could find any possible loopholes that would not inhibit the journalism program from first the San Antonio trip in November, and then the New York City trip in the spring.

“He said that we would need to ask for strictly voluntary donations, and with no deadlines. There could not be a standard sum of money for donations, and everything would need to be refundable in case not enough money was raised.”

However, the Dragon Press did not have enough time to raise funds for San Antonio, and in order to raise enough money in time for the New York trip, they will start to fundraise as soon as possible.

Schink voiced her personal annoyance. “It’s frustrating because the point of the bill is that everyone understands that there should be no discrimination and equal opportunities, but some schools are wealthy enough to not be affected, and that only creates a bigger rift,” she said.

While Dragon Press advisor Melissa Wantz understands the reasoning for this legal action and greatly values the idea of a free public education, she finds it frustrating to see the effects of this bill on the journalism program, especially as the only redeeming options, to her, seem unrealistic.

“I am disappointed that our fall trip to the national convention [in San Antonio] is not going to happen. It’s been a trip we’ve enjoyed for four years in a row, where we have learned to be better journalists and brought back many great ideas for the rest of the staff,” she said. “There is no feasible way to raise $40,000 to take the entire class to a national convention. It’s not realistic, and so we are struggling to find a way to continue to take a small group of students [for the New York conference] legally.”

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