Carla Rivera | LA Times LA Now blog
April 6, 2010 | 3:26 pm -- Under pressure from parents and members of the Los Angeles Board of Education, Supt. Ramon C. Cortines said Tuesday that most students who attend schools outside the district can continue to do so next year. But he said he will go back to the board in September with a policy to deal with the 2011-12 school year and beyond.
In February, Cortines moved to limit the types of permits issued to families seeking attendance in other districts, allowing exemptions only for students whose parents work within the boundaries of the other district and for students who would complete fifth, eighth or 12th grades next year.
Last year, L.A. Unified granted permission to more than 12,200 students to enroll in 99 other districts, including those in Torrance, Culver City and Santa Monica-Malibu. Cortines estimates that the district is losing $51 million in state per-pupil funding, money that could help to close a $640-million budget shortfall.
But many families mounted an aggressive campaign to persuade L.A. Unified to scuttle or modify the policy change. Parents held a rally outside school district headquarters Tuesday before the school board met to discuss the permit issue for the first time.
Board members Steve Zimmer and Tamar Galatzan support the superintendent's plan to allow students in the fifth and eighth grades to continue at their schools, but the board members had proposed that that all high school students remain in their schools of choice until graduation.
Cortines said he has consulted with numerous other officials, lawyers and parents and decided to allow most students to retain their permits next year. Board members asked that the new policy to be discussed in September take into account concerns raised over the last few weeks.
Cortines: Existing LAUSD permit students will be allowed to stay
By Melissa Pamer Staff Writer | Daily Breeze
04/06/2010 03:29:48 PM PDT -- Some 12,000 students and their panicked parents won a temporary reprieve today when Los Angeles schools Superintendent Ramon Cortines announced that he would continue to issue almost all permits that allow children to attend campuses in other, often higher-achieving school districts.
At a board meeting that was packed with parents - some wearing "I Love My School" T-shirts - Cortines said that he was at least temporarily reneging a new policy that had been expected to return four-fifths of students on "inter-district permits" to Los Angeles Unified School District campuses.
"For existing permits, the majority of those will be approved," he said, generating applause and cheers from the audience. "I am not knowingly going to harm the education of boys and girls and young people and distress the adult in their life."
For the 2011-12 school year, Cortines said he would put in place a new system that would more clearly define which children would be eligible for permits in future. The system would come before the board in September, he said.
Cortines also said he'd seek data from parents explaining why they chose to send their children to other school districts.
He blamed the now-defunct decision to stop offering the permits on education budget cuts imposed by the state Legislature, as did Board President Monica Garcia.
At a meeting in February, the board had quietly approved a policy allowing Cortines to limit such permits. In an internal memo, he told them he would only issue permits to children rising to fifth, eighth or 12th grade, and to students whose parents worked within the boundaries of other school districts. The move would bring $51 million in enrollment-based state funding back to LAUSD, which was then looking at a $640 million budget gap.
This year, 12,249 students living in LAUSD territory have permits allowing them to attend other school districts, with more than a third of them going to South Bay schools.
When news of the new policy slowly got out, many parents became frantic - and officials in the transfer school districts likewise became concerned about lost enrollment and funding.
Parents pushed the district to change the policy, starting a petition and a Facebook group with more than 2,600 members.
"We Won!!!!Great Meeting!!" wrote one member of the group on the Facebook page.
At today's meeting, board member Steve Zimmer, who represents Westchester, had planned to introduce a motion to let high-schoolers complete their education at non-LAUSD campuses while keeping the rest of the new policy intact.
Zimmer withdrew his resolution after Cortines' comments, praising the superintendent's solution.
"I hope parents recognize that change is coming," Zimmer said. "I encourage parents and families to use this time to really visit your neighborhood school and to see how you, too, can be a partner in building strong and successful neighborhood schools in every community."