The Chilliwack school board has run into another unexpected cost.
Under a settlement reached in B.C. Supreme Court Friday, the board will have to refund about $66,000 in tuition fees collected from 159 students' families for academic summer school courses in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
The settlement ends two classaction law suits launched by one parent in Vancouver and another in Coquitlam.
The Coquitlam suit named as defendants all of the school boards in British Columbia who charged tuition fees for summer school courses leading to graduation.
In each suit, the plaintiff argued that charging fees for these courses was illegal in B.C. Both cases were settled Friday. Chilliwack was among 20 boards that have agreed to make refunds.
"It's another hit to the budget when it does come out," School District No. 33 secretary treasurer Gerry Slykhuis said of the $66,000. "I don't know when this will be settled, this
year or next, but it's certainly going to be another cost that we have to find from somewhere else."
It's unlikely the education ministry will chip in to cover the costs, Slykhuis said.
"Their attitude would be it's one big pot of education money, so if they take it out of there, it just means we're getting less somewhere else," he said.
Ministry of Education spokesman Scott Sutherland said the ministry could not comment under the terms of the agreement.
He did say that for 2013, "government will have provided an estimated $14.6 million to school districts to help about 48,000 school-age students take summer learning courses." The application to certify the class-action lawsuit was filed in 2009, two years after then-education minister Shirley Bond ordered school districts to stop charging tuition for students attending summer school for academic credit. She said the fees - which ranged from $200 to $500 a course - were illegal. She ordered districts to refund
all such fees in 2007.
The class-action suit argued that if the fees were illegal in 2007, they were also illegal in preceding years (subject to the statute of limitations).
Under the settlement, parents who paid tuition for summer school remedial and graduation completion courses will be mailed a claim form allowing them to choose either a 70 per cent refund or a 100-percent credit toward tuition in other courses. A 25-per-cent legal fee will be deducted and paid to Poyner Baxter LLP, which represented the plaintiffs.
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