SB268 – Sen. Rodrick Wright’s Bill Aims to Limit Inter-District Permits and School Choice

If Senator Roderick Wright (SD 25 – Inglewood) has his way, choosing your school using inter-district permits will be a rarity should his bill, SB268 become law.

Despite claims by Senator Wright that his bill is only designed to provide “certainty” to the inter-district permit process, SB268 is in fact designed to make failing school districts such as Los Angeles Unified the sole arbiter of your child’s inter-district permit appeal. It provides certainty for the district, not your child.

Wright’s bill, is word for word, cut and paste from an LAUSD Legislative proposal published on December 9, 2010 that essentially turns the appeals process before the independent Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) into a mere three point check list that the LAUSD already follows. It then adds a legislative poison pill that guts the parents right of appeal by limiting what the LACOE may hear and rule on.

How the Permit Process Works

For all sorts of reasons many families need alternatives to the schools in their own district. To accomplish this they must file for a inter-district permit. A permit is required so that Average Daily Attendence (ADA) funding follows the child to the new out-of-district school, known as the ‘school of choice.’

Concerned about getting a permit? Find helpful support at the Stop LAUSD from Denying Permits Facebook group.

Before filing however, the parent must find for a suitable school that meets their needs and has space available. Often the child has to meet certain GPA requirements and have a good behavior and attendance records. Before filing for a permit, the parent should get a written acceptance from the school of choice. 

The parent then files for an inter-district permit with the district of residence.  
If the appeal is accepted, a permit is mailed out to the parent and to the school of choice.

District Appeals

If the permit is denied by the district of residence, the parent has 14* days to appeal with the district. This appeal is heard by an appeals committee set up by the district. During this appeal, a parent cites the reasons for transferring out. If this appeal is denied, the parent then has 30 days to appeal again, this time before the independent LACOE.

The LACOE Appeal

The LACOE is a fairer arbiter because not only do they have the students best interests in mind (absent is having to worry about their budget),  they also represent over 80 school districts in Los Angeles County including the LAUSD. They don’t favor one district over the other.

Because of the independent nature of the LACOE, its appeals process for permits is not driven by self interest as school districts can be.  For example, last spring LAUSD District Superintendent Ramone Cortines announced a policy change that would deny permits to 10,000 students in order to make up for a $640 million budget shortfall. The new policy would limit permits to only those who qualify under state law. Because of a loud anxious protest by parents, Cortines was forced to rescind his new policy weeks later.

SB268′s Poison Pill

Having backed off of last springs permit policy debacle, the LAUSD choose the legislative route and found Senator Wright to carry their legislation.  The key to this legislation is paragraph (iv) cited below which excludes from LACOE’s review anything that was already denied by the district during its appeal phase.  The language written by the district would make the LAUSD the final decision maker and limit LACOE to consider information not heard by the district already.

(B) The review by the county board of education of the decision of the district governing board under subparagraph (A) shall be limited to the following questions:
(i) Whether the district acted in accordance with an interdistrict attendance agreement, where applicable.
(ii) Whether the district followed the district’s policy on interdistrict attendance.
(iii) Whether the district provided the parent or guardian with an opportunity to provide information relevant to the interdistrict attendance request.
(iv) Whether there is relevant information that, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, could not have been produced, or that was improperly excluded, at the hearing before the district governing board.

At a Senate Education Committee hearing on March 30th, a Legislative Advocate for the LAUSD, Virginia Strom-Martin sought to describe the districts appeals process as compassionate and fair, citing the 10,000 students that received permits last year. What she omitted however was that only 2,000 students would have received permits if Cortines’s new policy came into effect.

This proposed legislation will affect everyone seeking first time permits.  It will also affect districts that historically accepted students with transfer permits.  Those districts will likely have to lay off teachers if permit students are force to remain in their own districts where opportunities are very limited.

SB268 is a terribly bad ‘education’ bill.  Its sole purpose is to recover some of the $52.2 million in revenues that the legislative analysts says LAUSD lost as students permit out.  Ironically the district is losing over $265 million as students flee to public charter schools taking with them the Average Daily Attendence money.

The bills underlying goal to recover $52 million in a district with a $7.3 billion budget is akin to looking between the sofa cushions for coins. This at the expense of denying students who have found opportunities in their chosen out of district school. Opportunities they can’t find at their local school.

Call your Sen. Roderick Wright and your own State Senator. 

Tell them you oppose SB268 because it will make it more difficult for parents to appeal to the Los Angeles County Office of Education when they are denied a permit by LAUSD.  SB268 takes school choice away from families.  

*revised 4/14 ; was 7 days

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