The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) Board of Education recently revised the permit policy to increase the number of available permits. Though more permitted students will slightly increase District revenue, it will not cause crowding problems in schools according to Vice President of the board Laurie Lieberman.
The decision to increase the amount of available inter-district student permits this upcoming school year was made during the board meeting on Mar. 15.
Lieberman said that the permit policy (BP 5117) was revised after fellow board member Jose Escarce initiated a reexamination of student permits earlier in the year.
“Escarce raised the possibility of revisiting our district’s permit policy in response to declining enrollment in the district,” Lieberman said. “The underlying notion was not that we should be increasing permit students in the abstract, but that we should consider doing so in a thoughtful, methodical way, with the goal of maintaining enrollment at the same level it was in 2010-2011.”
A district report revealed that the state would grant the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) $876,213 for an additional 170 permits; subtract the cost of extra teachers and supplies, and the net gain comes out to a value around $547,713, according to the report.
According to Board President Ben Allen, such permit policy revisions are often made in order to keep the amount of enrolled SMMUSD students somewhat consistent.
“There has been a slight dip in enrollment, which could jeopardize our current levels of state funding, so we’re trying to maintain our numbers to keep staffing levels steady,” Allen said.
The policy’s revision has received some criticism from members of the community. On Samo parent mailing list Samohi-PALS, some parents have posted about tax hikes as a result of the extra students. Letters to the editor of the Santa Monica Daily Press (SMDP) have also expressed concerns about overcrowding at SMMUSD schools.
However, the staff report on permits says that because of the revenue from the state, raising taxes is unnecessary; Santa Monica residents will not pay for the education of out-of-district students attending SMMUSD schools.
In addition, Lieberman said that adding 100 to 200 students to a district will not result in overcrowding; the plan will only permit around 20 new Samo students and 50 new middle school students total.
“Since permits will not be accepted unless they are within the number being entertained at each grade level and they will not be accepted at all if the desired enrollment level is reached, this tweak of the permit policy should not lead to overcrowding,” Lieberman said.
The board also modified guidelines regarding which students have priority in receiving inter-district permits. Students whose parents work in the district-area or are district, Santa Monica College or City Hall employees will now have priority, as will international students.Students whose grandparents have resided in district-area for a period of five years or longer will also be given preference.
“We created the new permit priority category for grandchildren of residents as a recognition of the many contributions made by long-standing residents,” Allen said.
According to H-House principal Leslie Wells, the added revenue will have a positive impact on Samo.
“Does it benefit Samohi directly? That depends on who you ask,” Wells said. “But that money can be used to keep positions and not fire staff.”