Idaho Supreme Court returns lawsuit challenging kindergarten fees to district court

The Idaho Supreme Court wants a district court to reconsider questions of fairness in a lawsuit challenging full-day kindergarten fees in the West Ada School District.

The state’s highest court announced that it returned, or “remanded,” the case to district court for further consideration of “important constitutional questions,” a summary statement released by Supreme Court staff on Monday reads.

The constitutional questions revolve largely around whether or not the parents who sued the district over the fees have standing to pursue a claim alleging “educational injury” to their son — something the Supreme Court determined was the case, according to the opinion.

The parents filed a class-action lawsuit in district court in 2019, seeking to overturn kindergarten fees and force Idaho districts and charters to return fees paid since 2014-15. In July 2020, the district court dismissed the complaint because the parents who sued did not pay kindergarten fees or attempt to enroll their child in a school offering full-day kindergarten.

The parents appealed, arguing that they would have enrolled their child in a school with full-day kindergarten if West Ada offered it for free.

While the Supreme Court reversed the prior decision about educational injury to the student, it affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of an “economic injury” claim from the parents.

“Parents did not pay kindergarten fees,” the ruling reads. “Thus, they do not have standing to seek redress — on their own behalf or on behalf of others — for an economic injury they have not suffered.”

The Supreme Court remanded the case for further proceedings “consistent” with opinions from the ruling in Monday’s announcement.

State funding for full-day kindergarten has been a thorny issue in Idaho over the years. Kindergarten remains optional under state law.  And while the state funds half-day kindergarten, those providing full-day options must cover the additional costs on their own. Fees for families often play a role.

Stay with Idaho EdNews for more on this developing story. 

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

EdNews assistant editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He lives and works in East Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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