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Hundreds of students can’t return to Beverly Hills schools

Hundreds of students attending Beverly Hills schools will have to find new campuses in the fall after a unanimous school board vote late Tuesday ended special permits for many children who live outside the city.

Following more than four hours of debate that lasted until almost midnight, the board agreed to allow all current high school students to continue applying for permits each year, an action that won applause from a packed, emotional but civil crowd at Beverly Hills High.

Seventh graders will be allowed to graduate from middle school next year. But students in elementary school and eighth grade will not be allowed to return to district schools for the 2010-2011 academic year unless their families move into the city.

The meeting was marked by some confusion and accusations of elitism and entitlement as various amendments to accept some grade levels and exclude others were proposed and rejected. Board member Lisa Korbatov questioned why permit families living in some ZIP Codes with million-dollar homes could not move to the city.

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“What should I say to people living in Beverly Hills who are working two jobs, struggling to pay the rent and put food on the table? Their stories are just as compelling as yours,” she said.

Former Beverly Hills Mayor Charles Aronberg told the board that they are being closely scrutinized.

“To not renew [permits] would reflect very badly on our city, and as we all know, when someone sneezes in Beverly Hills, it’s heard around the world,” he said.

The decision left many families unsatisfied. Leslie Wasserman’s ninth-grade daughter, Emily, will be able to continue at Beverly Hills High, but her sixth-grade daughter, Hannah, will have to find a new school.

“It’s devastating,” Wasserman said. “We don’t know what we’re going to do, except we’re going to appeal and fight.”

The so-called opportunity permits have long been contentious, but they moved to the forefront this year because of a funding shift. The Beverly Hills Unified School District currently receives about $6,200 from the state for each student, including those on nonresident permits. But it is preparing to become a “basic aid” district, funded by property tax revenue rather than state money based on student attendance.

The district will continue other nonresident permits for legacies, to promote diversity and for city and district employees.

carla.rivera@latimes.com

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