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My son's school (private 501(c)(3), middle-school) has tons of required donations. Is this legal?

San Francisco, CA |
Filed under: Education law

Parents have to participate in the school's numerous fund raisers ( 5 in one school year ) by donating goods worth of an X dollar amount , or do a buyout for an X dollar amount . Although the school transparently shows where the proceeds go ( all used toward school operational ) , but somehow it feels too much and questionable since they're non - profit . Why didn't they just put it all under tuition ?

Attorney Answers 4

Posted

This is common and usual in private schools. Your recourse is take your child elsewhere. If you do not participate in these voluntary (!) activities and support drives, you may find that you don't have to decide to take your kid elsewhere -- the school may make that decision for you. You may also detect some subtle passive-aggressive conduct such as a barrage of requests, delays in providing transcripts, even screw-ups involving your kid's participation in student activities and such. Private schools don't bundle all of these costs into tuition and state that amount as the cost because they are competing in the marketplace for students. But all of them (at least all of the non-religious based ones) do this stuff and it is not unlawful.

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3 lawyers agree

4 comments

Asker

Posted

Since you mentioned "(at least all of the non-religious based ones)"... My son's school is religious based. Would this change your answer ("it is unlawful")? Thank you in advance for your help.

Asker

Posted

I'm sorry... let me correct my question above. You wrote "it is not unlawful" instead of it is unlawful. Again, my apology.

Christine C McCall

Christine C McCall

Posted

The distinction I was wanting to make is that all non-religious private schools engage in these practices, but some of the religious-based private schools do not. Most likely it is a question of degree. I have clients with students in a private school here in LA County where for 8 months not even 3 school days went by without a new solicitation for money and participation by parents from the school.

Asker

Posted

Thank you for your help.

Posted

The previous poster is correct. I would add that the school most likely does not state outright that you must "donate" otherwise this is not technically considered a donation to the school since donations are voluntary.

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3 comments

Asker

Posted

On the school parent agreement they put it as "Required Parent Participations." "Parents are required to participate in X fundraiser by donating goods ...." So, they do use the word: "donate." Please advise. Thank you in advance for your help.

Jonathan B. Lefkowitz

Jonathan B. Lefkowitz

Posted

Technically the goods may not be considered donations but as the first poster stated if part of the agreement to go the school requires you to participate then this is legal. If it is not possible for you to do so you should talk to someone there about your situation or find another school.

Asker

Posted

Thank you for your help.

Posted

There are few restrictions on private schools in terms of fundraising. As long as the use the funds for the purposes specified in their corporate and IRS documents, there is no legal issue. You can try to find a less expensive private school or consider the public schools.

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Posted

Sometimes, organizations exempt under 501(c)(3) struggle to maintain their "public support" test, and try to boost "contributions from the general public" in this (somewhat underhanded) manner. I don't know if that is the case in this situation, but I'd be interested in pulling the school's form 990 and taking a look to see how they're accounting for these "donations" and why.

On the plus side, though - as a "donation" you should receive a receipt from the school, in relation to these "donations," to use as a deduction on your personal income taxes. You wouldn't receive that benefit if those payments were integrated into the tuition or fees.

May L. Harris, J.D., M.A.
For Purpose Law Group, a PLC

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