The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District is considering lifting its moratorium on admitting interdistrict permit students for the 2005-2006 school year.

Interdistrict permits allow students who are not residents of Santa Monica or Malibu to be enrolled in district schools.

Proposed changes in policy are the district’s response to a projected drop in average daily attendance (ADA) and a little more than $1.2 million in lost state funding.

John Deasy, district superintendent, said a 200 to 270-point drop in ADA credits for the 2003-2004 school year will have to be taken care of in the 2005-2006 budget.

“The very first item in the budget among all the other things in front of you will be to absorb that cut,” Deasy said.

“A number that large simply cannot come out of the budget in any place but salaries,” he said.

California funds individual school districts based on ADA, which is the number of students in school each day divided by the number of days school is in session.

Each drop in ADA points results in thousands of dollars of lost state funding.

The board of education Thursday, January 6th, directed staff to rewrite policy to admit 100 permit students into elementary school grades if classroom space is available.

Permit students are figured into the state ADA funding calculations.

Deasy said space is available in some kindergarten-through-third-grade classrooms, and possibly in fourth and fifth grade.

While district high schools and middle schools are currently overcrowded, some elementary schools can enroll more students.

A moratorium on admitting permit students has been in place since 2002 so that the district could reduce class size.

Deasy said the moratorium was approved by the board of education when the state budget and the economy were in good shape and the district did not need to enroll more students.

Typically, students receive permits if they:

– previously resided and attended schools in the district, but then involuntarily lost their housing;

– need to utilize the district’s gifted or special education programs;

– have a parent or parents who work for the district;

– have a parent or parents who work in Santa Monica or Malibu; or

– have siblings who attend district schools on permit.

Students who receive a permit can stay in the district until they graduate from high school.

The district uses a lottery to admit permit students, and students who previously attended district schools have priority.

Staff will work on rewriting the permit policy and come back later with language for the board of education to discuss and approve.

“I would certainly support this direction only from the perspective that we don’t have any other alternatives,” said board vice president Julia Brownley.

Board member Jose Escarce said he favors keeping the moratorium on permit students.

“I have misgivings about this. There is a perception that there are already too many permit students in the district,” Escarce said.

He said he has nothing against current permit students, but he thinks the fact that permit students make up 17 percent of total enrollment is too high.

The average total student population in the district is 52,000 to 53,000 students per year, Deasy said.

STATE OF EDUCATION — Deasy said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s remarks about education in his State of the State address Wednesday, January 5th were “incendiary.”

Schwarzenegger called for a special legislative session to cut spending without raising taxes and reform government in various areas such as budgeting, education, pensions and criminal justice.

“I know the special interests will oppose all the reforms I have mentioned,” Schwarzenegger said.

“Any time you try to remove one dollar from the budget, there are five special interests tugging on the other end,” he said.

Deasy said “the dichotomy of special interest” in reference to teachers and the teachers union was “particularly offensive to me.”

“I do not know a single teacher or administrator in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District who I would characterize as a special interest group member,” Deasy said.

In terms of education reform, Schwarzenegger proposed tying teacher pay to merit and employment to performance.

“This is going to be a big political fight,” Schwarzenegger said. “This is a battle of the special interests versus the children’s interests.”

In special legislative session, Schwarzenegger will also propose changing the voter-approved Proposition 98.

The proposition is a 1988 state initiative that guarantees that public school districts get 40 percent of state revenues.

Changes to the proposition require two-thirds approval from the Legislature and also approval from voters.

The State of California has been keeping Proposition 98 funds in recent years to attempt fixing budget deficits.

Last year, Schwarzenegger promised educators that the state would give those funds back to school districts.

“The governor will propose eliminating future requirements to repay the kindergarten through 12th-grade remaining maintenance factors, money owed to us from previous under-appropriations of Proposition 98,” Deasy said.

“If enacted, the governor’s proposal will have substantial and serious consequences on our budget preparation and bottom line,” he said.