Parents spoke passionately today against a new Los Angeles Unified School District policy that will drastically cut back the number of students allowed to enroll in schools outside the district.
Last year L.A. Unified issued permits to more than 12,000 students to attend schools in Torrance, Santa Monica, Simi Valley and Manhattan Beach among other districts. L.A. Unified’s superintendent said that doing so cost the district $51 million in state per-pupil funding that goes to the districts in which students enroll. He said that budget cuts compel L.A. Unified to scale back the use of those permits.
Carlos Zubieta of Venice has a permit for his seven-year-old daughter to attend a Spanish immersion program in Santa Monica public schools. He told L.A. Unified school board members that they hadn’t done enough to improve schools in their district. "If you had fixed them, they would come back. If you showed us what type of solutions you had for us, we would come back. You’re forcing us back, which is a completely different approach."
Gillian Bonacci of L.A. has a permit for her son to attend an Italian-immersion program in Glendale. She told school board members they’re changing a longstanding policy too late for her to find a suitable school within L.A. Unified. "By denying this permit I will either have to uproot my family from our neighborhood community or uproot my son from his school community. And you want me to send him to a K-5 school with almost 30 percent more children, an appalling diversity index of 31 percent, and an API that does not meet the state minimum goal of 800."
Board member Steve Zimmer told KPCC that he favors an exception for students enrolled in language immersion programs.
A dozen parents spoke out against the permit change. Some said they understood that the economy's compelling board members to find ways to recoup funds while other parents said their kids would have no choice but to enroll in "second class" L.A. Unified campuses.
Angry and leaning forward from his chair, San Pedro-area board member Richard Vladovic took issue with that characterization. "We have 40,000 great teachers in L.A. and I'm going to tell you, I don't have to listen to somebody denigrate it. If he's got a problem and his child wants to, we have a process. But to blanketly indict our teachers and this district, no way. And I won't listen to it."
If L.A. Unified moves forward with the policy, school districts in Torrance, Culver City, and Santa Monica stand to lose millions of dollars in state per-pupil funding from students who leave their districts and return to L.A. Unified schools.