Around Town: One city. One school district

Last week, I wrote about the need to support our young families in their quest to lower class sizes in the La Cañada public elementary schools, and the need to encourage all parents to participate in the decision-making process.

Because of my focus on the plight of the Sagebrush families, I unintentionally mixed apples and oranges when I discussed permit students. I pointed out that the permit kids, including many from the Sagebrush area (which is in our city but falls within the Glendale Unified School District), live under a double-tier system and do not feel free to complain at school board meetings.

The following is not legal advice, and if you have an issue with respect to permits, please consult an attorney.

From time to time during the last 30 years, parents in the Sagebrush area have sought to be included in the La Cañada Unified School District (LCUSD). The Sagebrush is a residential area west of Palm Crest Elementary School, inside the city limits of La Cañada Flintridge, but part of the Glendale Unified School District (GUSD).

Ironically, the Sagebrush parents have less rights under the Education Code than parents who apply for transfer based on their work in the city of La Cañada Flintridge. Under Education Code sections 46609 and 46601, Sagebrush parents may request an interdistrict transfer/reciprocal agreement. The agreement must be approved by both GUSD and LCUSD. The maximum term of the agreement is for five consecutive years. Each agreement may contain conditions, including conditions for revocation. If a request for an interdistrict transfer/reciprocal agreement is denied, the student's parents or guardians may file an appeal to the county office of education, within strict time limits. Consult with an attorney regarding those time limits and the legal provisions.

Transfers based on employment are treated differently. California Education Code section 48204(b), also known as the "Parent Employment" or "Allen Bill," permits a school district to deem a pupil to have complied with the residency requirements for school attendance in the district if at least one parent or guardian of the pupil is physically employed within the boundaries of that district. Under the Allen Bill, LCUSD is not required to admit a child. However, LCUSD may not discriminate based on "race, ethnicity, sex, parental income, scholastic achievement, or any other arbitrary consideration."

Whereas a Sagebrush permit may be for one year or up to five years, at the discretion of LCUSD, the work permit under the Allen bill is essentially permanent for that child. Once admitted to residency, the pupil's transfer may be revoked only if the parent ceases to be employed within the boundaries of the district. As a resident, the student admitted under the Allen Bill due to parent employment does not have to re-apply for the transfer to be valid.

Where does this leave us? Naturally, the families who are in the LCUSD by permit want the best for their children. Each child brings their equivalent state funds based on average daily attendance to the new school. The argument can be made that the classroom numbers need adjustment due to declining enrollment in LCUSD and that permits help adjust the classroom size.

On the other hand, once the work permit students are admitted, they will most likely continue through the high school level, and other districts, faced with similar budget deficits, have considered shifting the class size increases to the high school level, while maintaining the lower class size levels at the elementary school.

Lowering elementary school class sizes is a worthy goal and all options need to be on the table.

Our young families need our support.

The two-tier system does not further those goals. If a family comes in on a work permit, the LCUSD should accept other children in that family. Further, the LCUSD school board should set a five-year goal of a Sagebrush-LCUSD merger. The board should actively negotiate with GUSD to accomplish this. In the short term, the LCUSD board should set a policy that favors granting maximum term permits to all Sagebrush families who ask for a permit.

One city, one school district.

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2010 Tower of Tuna count, as of Tuesday: 19. Don't forget to deliver cans of tuna to the Valley Sun office, 727 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada. As the holidays arrive, the cans will be taken to the North Hollywood Interfaith Food Pantry to be distributed to families in need.

ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with the Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. E-mail her at anitasusanbrenner@yahoo.com.

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