By Jonathan Friedman | Lookout [online presence of former Santa Monica Outlook staff]
March 19, 2010 --In response to the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) plan to cancel most of its interdistrict permits, Superintendent Tim Cuneo is preparing a proposal to exempt students from LAUSD residences currently enrolled at Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) schools.
Cuneo’s proposal would also apply to siblings of current SMMUSD students from LAUSD residences. He said at Thursday’s Board of Education meeting that he had spoken with LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines, who has agreed to consider the proposal.
More than 1,200 students living within the LAUSD boundaries are attending SMMUSD schools, with the largest number going to Santa Monica High School and Edison Language Academy. Some of those students would be exempt from the LAUSD plan because it excludes those with parents working within other district boundaries and those entering fifth, eighth and 12th grades, the finals years of each school level.
Cuneo on Wednesday hosted a session for parents of students affected by the new LAUSD policy. More than 250 people attended the event. Further information on the policy and the rights of those affected by it, including how to file an appeal, are provided on the District’s Web site at www.smmusd.org. To access the information, click “Permit Appeal” at the top left side of the site. Informational letters have also been mailed to interdistrict parents.
Those denied interdistrict permits from the LAUSD can appeal the decision within the LAUSD. If that appeal is denied, an appeal can be filed with the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE). With more than 12,000 students affected by the LAUSD policy countywide, LACOE could have its hands full.
“They’re attempting to try to gear up and figure out how to even manage all that,” Cuneo said.
Board member Jose Escarce said parents wanting to keep their children in the SMMUSD would have a good case based on the issue of “continuity of education.”
The LAUSD policy is an attempt to bring more money into that District, which is facing a $640 million budget shortfall. School District income from Sacramento is based on daily attendance, and LAUSD officials say their new policy would mean an extra $51 million. But it would also mean a high seven-figure dollar loss for the SMMUSD.
Since State funding for School Districts is based on attendance from the previous school year, the policy would not affect the SMMUSD financially until the 2011-12 school year.
The LAUSD policy was initially approved with little fanfare at a Board of Education meeting last month. It was formalized on Wednesday. The news did not reach other Districts until earlier this month. Various Districts are now scrambling to address the issue on a tight timeline.
Shari Davis, president of the Santa Monica-Malibu PTA Council, said the council voted unanimously to oppose the LAUSD policy because of the impact it would have on the children.
“We believe such directives will have a detrimental impact on the welfare of those children, on parental involvement in our school communities and on the educational experience and success of these students academically, and in other important pursuits that constitute a well-rounded education,” Davis said.
Several board members said they were troubled by the policy. Board member Oscar de la Torre said he would like the Board to make a formal resolution in opposition to it at a future meeting.
“This is one community, one school community,” de la Torre said. “And we want to make sure we do everything we can to protect those students and those families to continue their education in our schools.”