School administrators in Glendale say they are worried about the effect of a new state law that will make it easier for parents who live in one city but work in another to enroll their children in a public school near their jobs.
"It's a disaster," Gary Hess, the district's director of student services, said of the change in the state Education Code.
Glendale officials are particularly concerned because a recent boom in high-rise office construction is expected to bring thousands of new workers to town. That could mean a flood of transfer requests that could crowd the district's 19 elementary schools, they say.
The Glendale Unified school district is considered so desirable that out-of-town parents already use the Glendale addresses of friends and relatives to register their children in Glendale schools. Just this week, the district hired a second attendance worker to help combat fraudulent enrollment.
School officials in the Los Angeles and La Canada school districts do not expect the new law, which goes into effect in January, to drastically affect their enrollment.
The new provision amends the state Education Code to require districts to consider parents' place of employment as a residence so that elementary-aged children can go to school near a parent's job. It was authored by Assemblywoman Doris Allen (R-Cypress) and signed by Gov. George Deukmejian last month.
Responding to concerns of some districts, Allen amended the legislation so that it is not mandatory for districts to accept all children who apply. Both the receiving district and the sending district must agree to the transfer. School districts with more than 2,500 students can limit the number of such transfers to 1% of the district's enrollment.
Hess, like other opponents of the law, asserts that, since most districts already allow some transfers under certain conditions, the law is not needed. He also says that to force a child to commute long distances with the parents will harm the child.
"Some youngsters will spend an hour and a half traveling if a parent has to get on the highway and commute. What are we asking the kid to do, put in the same hours as the parents?" Hess asked.
Allen said having parents closer to their children's schools during the day "makes it easier for them to respond to emergencies or take advantage of after-school child care and parent-teacher conferences."
"The long ride to and from work also provides time when children are able to talk to their parents," Allen said.
Rapid redevelopment in Glendale has brought at least 9,000 new workers to the city since 1984, officials say. Many of the employees commute from cities throughout Los Angeles County. With new office buildings under construction, about 2,500 more jobs are expected to open in Glendale within two years.
Because of that, Glendale school district leaders say they would have to limit such transfers as allowed under the new law.
"We do have a good school system. I would assume that we would get quite an influx," said Blanch M. Greenwood, president of the district school board.
Under current district policy, students can transfer in or out of the district if they are completing or entering their last year of elementary, junior high or high school. Transfers are also available for children of working parents who have no child-care arrangements and for children whose parents are closing escrow on a home in the process of moving in or out of the Glendale district. Parents are also allowed to transfer their children into the district if they provide proof that the student lives with relatives or a legal guardian in the area.
To check on residence information, attendance workers make surprise early-morning visits to the homes where the child is supposed to live. If the child or his or her personal belongings are not in the house, the child is withdrawn from the school. The child is also removed from the school system if the attendance worker is not allowed to enter the house, Hess said.
"We've got to protect the local taxpayer," Hess said. During the 1985-86 school year, about 260 students transferred out of district schools and an equal number transferred in, Hess said. There are about 20,000 students in district's schools. He estimated that about 40% of the 200 transfers into Glendale for students whose parents say they live with relatives or guardians were based on falsified information.
The new law might mean that the district will also have to check on where parents' work, he added.
The Los Angeles Unified School District is protected from significant enrollment changes under a provision in the new law that forbids transfers that would upset the racial balance of a district under court-ordered or voluntary desegregation.
In addition, Los Angeles school officials say they are not concerned about losing students because of the law because enrollment is expected to increase anyway.
"We're in such a high-growth district that I don't think it will affect us much," said Los Angeles Unified School District board member Jackie Goldberg, who represents part of northeast Los Angeles.
In the La Canada Unified School District, which has 2,885 students, school administrators say they are not too worried about the law.
"We're not doing anything right now. We're waiting to see the guidelines," said Claire Slaughter, district personnel assistant.
Whether the law will affect enrollment may depend on the 7,000 workers at the California Institute of Technology Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is in La Canada but has a Pasadena mailing address and telephone number, she said.
"A lot will depend or whether the workers are considered to be employed in La Canada or Pasadena," Slaughter said.