By Jonathan Friedman | Santa Monica Lookout Staff
“I know the kind of trauma that could cause for anybody who is uprooted in elementary or middle school."
- Supervisor Gloria Molina
April 1, 2010 -- Parents of the approximately 1,200 children living in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) who attend Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) schools can begin applying today for interdistrict permits for the fall. But due to a change in LAUSD’s policy, many of those parents could be denied their requests.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has made a recommendation to modify what Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky called a “draconian approach” by the LAUSD. And at least one LAUSD Board of Education member wants to see the policy changed.
The LAUSD Board in February gave Superintendent Ramon Cortines the authority to change the interdistrict permit policy. He called for an end to all such permits unless the student has a parent working within another District’s boundaries or if the child is entering fifth, eighth or 12th grades in that District.
The new policy is an attempt to bring more money into the LAUSD, which is facing a $640 million budget shortfall. School District income from the State is based on daily attendance, and LAUSD officials say their new policy would mean an extra $51 million.
But other Districts, including the SMMUSD, are concerned about losing money, and the psychological effect the policy will have on students. SMMUSD Superintendent Tim Cuneo said last month he planned to submit a proposal to the LAUSD that would exempt those currently enrolled in SMMUSD schools and their siblings.
Cuneo could not be reached for comment for this story. Rene Gonzalez, LAUSD assistant superintendent of health and human services, said on Wednesday he did not know of any proposal from the SMMUSD.
On Tuesday, the LAUSD Board of Education is expected to consider a proposal by Board member Steve Zimmer that would allow high school sophomores to complete their education in the District in which they are currently enrolled.
This week, the County Board of Supervisors approved a request by Supervisor Yaroslavsky to submit a letter to the LAUSD recommending students at all school levels be allowed to complete their education at the schools they are currently attending.
“I know the kind of trauma that could cause for anybody who is uprooted in elementary or middle school,” Supervisor Gloria Molina said. “So I think it’s a modest request.”
Yaroslavsky called the LAUSD policy a “seemingly arbitrary decision” and a “draconian approach.” He said it would be a “zero-sum game” financially because other Districts would lose money while the LAUSD would gain income.
The supervisor frowned on a policy that would tell a student, “now you’re going ten miles away, or wherever they are, and they lose all their friends and their comfort level.”
Gonzalez said he knew about the Board of Supervisors’ action, but could not comment on it because the LAUSD had not received the letter as of Wednesday.
Those applying for interdistrict permits must do so online at http://notebook.lausd.net/ Gonzalez said the Permits Office will decide whether to grant requests. Those denied permits can file an appeal that would be heard by Gonzalez and one other LAUSD employee.
Gonzalez said he is not concerned there will be an overwhelming number of appeals. “I’m assuming there will be a large percentage of applications that will actually be granted,” Gonzalez said, although he estimated the policy will require up to 80 percent of the 12,000 LAUSD residents attending other Districts to return home.
In addition to the children Superintendent Cortines has already exempted from the policy, Gonzalez said students who are seeking a program not offered in the LAUSD would receive interdistrict permits. SMMUSD officials said last month they believe students attending Edison Language Academy would be included in this category.
Those denied an appeal in the LAUSD can take their cases to the Los Angeles County Office of Education. Cuneo said last month that students will be allowed to attend SMMUSD schools in the fall if their permit applications are still pending under appeal.