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Pupil Transfer Provision May Offset Decline in Enrollment

July 20, 1986|JOHN L. MITCHELL | Times Staff Writer

Westside school officials are studying a new state law that will make it easier for parents to transfer their children out of the school districts near their homes to districts where they work.

Some officials hope that the amendment to the state Education Code will combat declining enrollment by attracting the children of the thousands of people who come to work in their cities but cannot afford to live there.

Beverly Hills Unified School District officials are expecting the change to result in an increase in requests for transfers of students to their district.

Asst. Supt. Walther R. Puffer said the district's four elementary and middle schools could absorb an additional 350 students, leaving enough room for growth without jeopardizing class size.

Quota System May Be Needed

"My guess is that when this becomes known we will get a lot of requests from people working in Beverly Hills, from the most affluent to the least affluent," Puffer said. "We may have to establish a quota system . . . or a lottery system to determine who is selected."

Puffer said the Beverly Hills district has an enrollment of 20 students with special permits and another 240 whose parents are school district employees.

"I personally will welcome an influx of children to this district," Beverly Hills school board President Frank Fenton said. "We would be happy to take in students so long as they do not pose a financial burden for the district."

Los Angeles Unified School District board member Alan Gershman, whose area of responsibility includes part of the Westside, said the amendment will have a "minimal if any impact because a key provision is that the district could refuse a transfer if it negatively impacts the district's court-ordered desegregation plan. That has been the basis of our denying many permits in the past."

Net Loss About 700 Students

Despite court-ordered restrictions, Los Angeles granted nearly 1,700 permits for students to transfer out of its district last year. Los Angeles also takes in about 1,000 students from nearby districts.

"It would probably have a minor impact on our district, because we already have such an extensive permit policy," said Henry Jones, deputy controller of finance for the Los Angeles district.

Earlier this year the Los Angeles Unified School District refused a request by officials in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District to consider allowing the children of Santa Monica city and school employees who live in Los Angeles to attend Santa Monica and Malibu schools. The request was turned down because of the possible impact on Los Angeles's desegregation plan.

The Santa Monica-Malibu district, which has experienced a dramatic decline in student population and state revenue during the past decade, has seen its enrollment drop from a high of 14,000 in 1976 to 9,200 this year. Officials in the Santa Monica-Malibu district do not expect the 150 students it currently receives through transfers to significantly increase in number.

"It could have a positive impact," school board Vice President Della Barrett said. "Many parents who work in our community would like to have their children go to school here."

The Culver City Unified School District admits about 200 students from neighboring districts. Administrators there said they do not believe the new law will affect their agreements with other districts. "The new law should cut down on the paper work," said Vera Jashni, assistant superintendent of educational services.

The provision amends the state Education Code to require districts to consider a place of employment a place of residence. It was authored by Assemblywoman Doris Allen (R-Cypress) and signed by Gov. George Deukmejian last month. It takes effect in January and expires June 30, 1990.

The Reason Behind It

Assemblywoman Allen said she wrote the bill for parents who want to be near their children during the day but cannot because they work in another city.

"When parents are closer to their children, it makes it easier for them to respond to emergencies or take advantage of after-school child care and parent-teacher conferences," she said. "The long ride to and from work also provides time when children are able to talk to their parents."

Opponents of the legislation argued that the law already is covered by existing agreements between districts.

The main opposition to the legislation came from the California School Boards Assn., which argued that the law was not needed because most districts already have agreements allowing students to attend school outside the districts where they live.

"Basically, districts already have this in place," said Rebecca Baumann, the association's director of governmental relations. She said that some parents could use the new law not to be close to their children but to get their children into better schools.

Refusals in Writing

The new provision prohibits districts from refusing to admit pupils on the basis of "race, ethnicity, sex, parental income, scholastic achievement or any other arbitrary consideration." Parents who are refused a transfer must be notified of the reason in writing.

The amendment allows districts to exclude students whose transfers would tip the racial balance of a district, jeopardizing the districts' court-ordered or voluntary desegregation plan. Districts also are allowed to refuse a student if the cost of educating him is greater than the revenue the district would receive from the state.

A district with an enrollment of more than 2,500 can limit the number of students seeking transfers to 1% of its enrollment.

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