Former school board member discusses lifting school district's 15% permit student cap

Lifting La Cañada Unified School District's 15% permit student cap could help fund specialty high school classes and reduce the amount needed for a new parcel tax, according to a former school board member.

“[Extra] students could bring in $600,000 of additional funding every year, which will help reduce the amount of the likely parcel tax renewal,” said Cindy Wilcox, who read a prepared statement during Tuesday's regular meeting of the school board.

Wilcox also warned that low enrollment could force the district to lay off some instructors who teach electives such as drama and choral music and specialty classes such as AP biology and physics.

“Now is the time to review those numbers, look at current enrollment and authorize the district staff to accept more permit students at the primary levels,” Wilcox said.

Moreover, the district's constraints on permit students shouldn't be set in stone, she said.

“The cap of 15% permit students is an arbitrary cap,” Wilcox said. “The 15% cap does not define a vibrant and dynamic high school education. Instead, every year, the enrollment needs to stand on its own. The enrollment for that year defines the high school education those students will receive.”

But board president Scott Tracy said the recent influx of younger resident students makes it difficult, if not impossible, to raise the cap on nonresident enrollment.

“What we're seeing is the number of permit students related to the growing number of resident kindergartners,” Tracy said.

Last month, Tracy noted that the increased number of younger families moving into La Cañada reflected more affordable housing enabled by a dip in local real estate prices. Moreover, he views that influx as healthy for the community.

Last week, the LCUSD announced revised permit application procedures that eliminated the need for families to camp out in front of the district office. Instead, three priority categories would be ranked via lottery. Those categories include students whose parents work within district boundaries, La Cañada residents who live within Glendale Unified boundaries and students applying under open enrollment.

Furthermore, according to the district, children of full-time LCUSD employees, siblings of continuing inter-district permit students, and children of part-time LCUSD employees will be given higher priority and not ranked by lottery.

Inter-district permit applications will be accepted at the district office from March 11 through April 30. Afterward, lotteries will be conducted to rank student priority in the three categories stipulated by the recently updated policy.

While a boost in the number of permit students could help the school district financially, their presence enriches La Cañada schools in other ways too, according to Wilcox.

“We need to encourage these families to apply,” Wilcox said. “We need to welcome them with open arms. We need them. They need us.”

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