Megan Walker (center) a Santa Monica High School teacher talks to her English class in room H120 on Thursday afternoon. (photo by Brandon Wise)

SMMUSD HDQTRS — The Los Angeles Unified School District wants to boost enrollment — and increase the amount of money it gets from the state — by cutting back on the number of permits it grants to students who live within the district’s boundaries but attend classes in other public school systems.

Under a plan LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines outlined in February, about 10,000 of the more-than 12,000 students who receive permits to leave the district would have to return to the LAUSD.

With more than 1,200 students who go to school in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District but live in LAUSD territory, the plan has caused concern among SMMUSD officials and district parents who say the new permit policy would disrupt students’ education and cost SMMUSD money.

Now, SMMUSD Superintendent Tim Cuneo is pushing back against the idea, announcing that he’ll send a proposal to Cortines next week asking him to exempt all current SMMUSD permit students and their siblings from the policy change.

Cuneo said he understands LAUSD’s need to increase revenue, but said the new LAUSD permit policy shouldn’t affect students who have already established ties at their schools.

“I think that that’s fair,” he said. “It’s fair to the families, it provides for continuity of education and it doesn’t separate families.”

LAUSD has said its permit policy change would generate $51 million for the district, which is facing a $640 million budget deficit.

SMMUSD School Board member Oscar de la Torre said Cuneo’s proposal to grandfather in current permit students would benefit SMMUSD at least in the short term.

“It’s what makes the most sense if you care about kids,” he said. “From a financial point of view, we can’t afford to lose those students. On top of that those students can’t afford to have their education disrupted.”

Under LAUSD’s plan, permit students who go to SMMUSD schools would be eligible to continue attending if one of their parents works within the school’s attendance boundary. Students entering fifth, eighth and 12th grade next year also would be eligible for permits to leave LAUSD, so that they can finish out the final year at their current schools.

Cuneo said about half of the district’s LAUSD permit students would likely fall into one of those two categories.

On Wednesday, 250 to 300 parents attended a meeting at John Adams Middle School to discuss LAUSD’s new permit policy and the process for appealing permit decisions, Cuneo said. SMMUSD has posted information for permit families on its Web site, www.smmusd.org.

District parents also have begun a letter writing campaign to urge LAUSD board members to implement the new permit policy gradually, Cuneo said.

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