California ranks 41st in the total value of its economy invested in K-12 education, and California's per pupil spending is below the national average. Fundraisers are usually a way to help struggling schools make ends meet – except for when they're not. Elementary School in Berkley, California held a "parent's night out" fundraiser to benefit the school. The parents played the live-action remake of The Lion King to keep the kids busy while the parents were raising money for the school, thinking it would be a more affordable alternative to babysitting. It wasn't.
Over two months after the fundraiser, they received a notice from Email Licensing USA, a firm representing Disney, claiming they held an illegal screening of the film and had to pay a fine of $250. The school has no idea how the screening got flagged – or why. "One of the dads bought the movie at Best Buy," PTA president David Rose told CNN. "He owned it. We literally had no idea we were breaking any rules."
"Any time a movie is shown outside of the home, legal permission is needed to show it, as it is considered a Public Performance," the email said. "Any time movies are shown without the proper license, copyright law is violated and the entity showing the movie can be fined by the studios. If a movie is shown for any entertainment reason -- even in the classroom, it is required by law that the school obtains a Public Performance license."
The event raised $800, and the PTA plans to use some of the funds that were supposed to go to school supplies to pay the fine."[I]f we have to fork over a third of it to Disney, so be it. You know, lesson learned," PTA president David Rose told KPIX.
Parents are understandably livid about the fine, especially because the Walt Disney Company isn't exactly hurting for money. According to Forbes, it's valued at $238.1 billion. Even though the PTA plans to pay the fine, they're not doing it without putting up a fight.
Lori Dorste is a parent of an Emerson student, but she's also a Berkley City Council member. Dorste says that Disney is part of the reason why schools are so underfunded in the first place. "There was an initiative passed in 1979 called Proposition 13 which casts the property tax on all land, and so Disney's property tax rates are at 1978 values, which translates into millions upon millions of dollars a year that Disney is not paying," Droste told CNN. "Because of that, our schools are now extremely underfunded. We went from the '70s being among the top education systems in the US to one of the lowest."
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Droste said that some parents have donated money to help the PTA pay the fine, but it's still not fair. "It's just so appalling that an incredibly wealthy corporation … is having its licensing agents chase after a PTA having to raise insane amounts of money just to pay teachers, cover financial scholarships and manage school programs," Droste told CNN. "We would be enthusiastic about paying the license fee if Disney was willing to have their properties reassessed and pay some additional property taxes."
It just goes to show, not every lesson is learned in the classroom.
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