Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s Board of Education discussed changing its interdistrict permit policy last Thursday.
Permits are issued to students whose families don’t live in the School District to allow them to attend a school in this district. The policy change under discussion would mandate that inter-district permits would only be issued on a year-to-year basis.
According to the District staff report, when the District issues PERT permits (Parent Employment Related Transfers) “to students whose parents work in the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu and DERT permits (District Employee Related Transfers) to the children of district employees” these students have resident status, which means they “typically remain” in the District “through graduation.”
In the view of the staff, such permitting is problematic because it “limits the District’s ability to respond to fluctuations in enrollment, space, programs and funding.” It posits that “by issuing permits that must be reviewed annually, the District will gain more flexibility in responding to annual changes.”
The new proposed policy change would not affect students already enrolled in the District on PERT or DERT permits.
Board member Maria Leon-Vazquez expressed apprehension that children requiring Special Education services would be discriminated against.
The District’s Assistant Superintendent of Special Education, Tim Walker, tried to reassure her that would not happen, saying, “We grant permits based on our ability to meet those children’s needs within the confines of our school system.”
Board member Kathy Wisnicki asked whether the change would “deter people from applying to work in the District” because their children would not be guaranteed attendance in District schools. She also wondered whether the change would create “a panic” among District employees who would have no assurance that their children’s permits would be renewed. Walker said that district employees are “first on the [priority] list for reapplication” and that similar policies had’t been a problem in other districts.
The only resident to speak on the issue, Ana Jara, raised several questions. She worried that the proposed change “did not contain a timeframe for when the parents would have to reapply” or “a timeframe for when the staff would submit an answer” to a family about its child’s permit status. She went on to say that “it needs to be done within a timeframe so a child has the necessary time to adjust to a change because it could be very detrimental to them if we don’t allow them that time.”
Board Vice-President Julia Brownly said, “It is very important to tell someone if they are not going to have a permit for the next year and that we do that as early as possible so families have an opportunity to plan for the next academic year.”
Walker said a timeline would be put in place that has that “availability built into it.”
Board President Emily Bloomfield asked that the policy include “notification of parents … with regard to notification of earliest possible opportunity that a permit might be at risk.”If approved by the Board, the change would go into effect later this year.