Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District offices (File photo)

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District has revised its interdistrict permit policies and is now requiring an annual verification process for students who wish to retain a permit heading into future school years.

SMMUSD’s Board of Education unanimously voted to approve the various changes to board policies and regulations during its meeting last Thursday, nearly seven months since staff first advised placing a freeze on all interdistrict permit categories except: “SMMUSD Employee,” “Sibling,” “City of Santa Monica Employee,” “City of Malibu Employee,” and “SMC Employee.”

Interdistrict permits are a tool utilized by SMMUSD families throughout Santa Monica and Malibu that allow students residing outside of the district’s residential boundaries to attend a SMMUSD campus. There are a number of permit types to apply for, and some of the higher-prioritized listings currently include: children of district, Santa Monica College or city of Malibu and Santa Monica employees; students who have siblings attending local schools; and those who work within SMMUSD boundaries or are related to an alum.

“We started this conversation back in December, (when) the board gave direction to staff about looking at the budgetary implications in a basic-aid environment relative to the permit categories,” SMMUSD’s Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Mark Kelly said Thursday as he detailed how the change in funding means the district no longer receives money for every pupil in a class — instead all funding is based on local property taxes.

No direction was given to staff in December that would impact current permit holders, but students and families were instructed they would now have to annually verify the information that entitled them to permits. On Feb. 20, when the item returned for a second reading, the board heard from dozens of public speakers who expressed concerns about the proposed changes and the potential impact on SMMUSD schools in Malibu. Following a few tearful pleas, the board directed staff on March 5 to move forward with reordering the permit priority categories and to remove the “opportunity” permit category for Santa Monica applicants only.

“The changes were scheduled to come back for board approval on March 19, 2020; however, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the state to enforce Stay at Home orders beginning March 19… Now that our district is preparing for enrollment for 2020-21, however, the changes to BP and AR 5117 need to be formalized with board action,” the meeting’s agenda states. Kelly added Thursday it’s necessary to have a board policy in place if the district wants to defend any appeals at the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

“We do know that we want to bring this back again for further discussion in 2020-21, because it also is part of the conversations in the Superintendent’s Budget Advisory Committee,” Kelly said, but the district is opting to move forward with the reshuffling of the permit priorities for now.

There is no immediate fiscal impact expected to come from the changes, which can be viewed online as part of the district’s presentation, but staff believes the freezing of a permit category will result in a decrease in enrollment and increased revenue per student, according to the agenda. “Positive fiscal impacts occur when enrollment and staffing are aligned.”


This story previously described Mark Kelly as a Director of Student Services instead of Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources.