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Beverly Hills school kids may get booted

February 10, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
A controversy is brewing in the Beverly Hills school district over students who don't live in Beverly Hills. They have special permits to go to the schools, but that could soon change. And the question is: What will happen to those "out of town" kids currently attending schools in Beverly Hills?The issue at hand is lines, invisible lines, and what happens if you're on the wrong side of one.

In most places, city limit signs don't mean anything, so people just whiz right past them. But in Beverly Hills, they mean something. They mean a lot.

Beverly Hills has a top-notch public-school system, and many parents who do not live inside those city limits will crawl to get their kids into it.

Stella Zinberg lives inside the line but knows what the fuss is about. "I think the school is great here," said Zinberg. "The school systems are great, and I think that everybody wants to get in, whether they live here or not."

Until now the district has issued what it calls "opportunity permits" to families who live near Beverly Hills but not in it to allow their kids to attend, but parents are anguished because that may soon end.

"I myself was compared to Hitler at a recent school-board meeting," said school board member Brian Goldberg.

Goldberg says the 600 students now enrolled with opportunity permits should be given "natural breaks" -- be allowed to finish the 5th, 8th, or 12th grades, dependent on their level. But after that, he feels there's only one way they can stay in.

"They can move in to Beverly Hills. That's it," said Goldberg.

Many parents feel that attitude callous and unfair.

Shayesteh Sadri has a kindergartner and a 3rd-grader enrolled at Horace Mann School. "They're used to this school. Once a child is used to a school, then it's not fair to just take them out," said Sadri.

The change away from opportunity permits is coming because of Beverly Hills' embarrassment of riches. The state may soon declare it a basic-aid district because of its bountiful property tax revenues. That declaration means the district will no longer receive ADA, or per-pupil attendance fees. So the incentive to sign up more students disappears.

Tamika Thomas lives in Los Angeles but has a daughter at Beverly Hills High School. She's not worried because she works for the district as a crossing guard, and district workers are exempt from the proposed change.

"It means a lot for me to have my daughter here at school in Beverly Hills, I mean, because where I live, the schools are not as good," said parent Tamika Thomas.


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