Thursday, April 15, 2010


By Jonathan Friedman / Special to The Malibu Times |

The Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent made a last-minute reversal on his decision to prohibit interdistrict permits. However, he said he plans to bring the proposal back next school year.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 11:24 AM PDT -- Last week's announcement by Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Ramon Cortines that he was withdrawing his controversial interdistrict permit prohibition should only give temporary relief to the 121 students attending Malibu schools on permit. Cortines said he would bring back a new, similar policy next school year after doing more research and talking to people. The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, which has 1,200 students on LAUSD permits, is preparing for this.

“My intent now is to work with the LAUSD, if they will agree to something like that, and put together an agreement,” SMMUSD Superintendent Tim Cuneo said. “And I want to put that in place so we don't have a last-minute thing like we did this year.”

Cuneo sent a letter to Cortines last month when the new policy was still on the table, asking for current SMMUSD students to be exempt from the prohibition. He said he did not receive a response, but Cuneo would like to meet with Cortines soon to discuss it. Cuneo is also working with the superintendents of the Culver City Unified School District and Las Virgenes Unified School District on developing a strategy “to try to influence LAUSD's policy.” A combined 25 percent of the 12,000 LAUSD residents on interdistrict permits attend schools in those three districts, Cuneo said.

The LAUSD Board of Education in February gave 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. This was an attempt to bring more money into the LAUSD, which is facing a $640 million budget shortfall. School district revenue from the state is based on daily attendance, and LAUSD officials estimated the new policy would mean an extra $51 million.

The policy was introduced with little fanfare in February. But as the news trickled into other districts in March, many became alarmed. District leaders, parents and students were concerned about the psychological effect the policy would have on children as well as the financial losses it would mean for their own districts.

Two LAUSD board members were prepared to introduce a measure last week on Tuesday to modify the policy so it would not affect high school students. Hundreds of people attended the meeting and took part in a protest before the session. Most of them wanted the policy eliminated altogether. Shortly after the meeting began, they got a pleasant surprise when Cortines said he was withdrawing it, for now.

“For existing permits, the majority of those will be approved,” said Cortines, whose statement triggered loud applause. “I am not knowingly going to harm the education of boys and girls and young people, and distress the adults in their life.”

SMMUSD Board of Education member Oscar de la Torre called Cortines' reversal “great news.”

“We should celebrate the good act from the LAUSD because the superintendent was right on with his assessment of the impact,” de la Torre said.

“I'm expecting the next time this comes back, there will be a more well-thought out proposal,” de la Torre said. “But in the end, there will be less people in our district on LAUSD permits.”

He continued, “I understand what the LAUSD is trying to do in bringing some of that revenue back. But the students represent more than dollar signs. It's important not to forget what impact this will have on the students in our district.”

De la Torre said SMMUSD parent involvement, including from those who did not even have students on permits, helped pressure Cortines to back down.

“It just goes to show we are one unified school district whether on permits or not,” de la Torre said. “We are going to do what we can to make it better for the next generation.”

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