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Parents protest LAUSD transfer restriction

April 6, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Angry voices in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday, as a group of parents protested plans by the Los Angeles School District to restrict students from attending out-of-district schools.The current policy was born when LAUSD schools were very crowded. That situation has changed dramatically. Now, the district needs dollars. The remedy has many parents put in a squeeze.

In downtown Los Angeles Tuesday, people protested the fate of 12,000 students that live near LAUSD schools. Through a permit process, the district has allowed parents to enroll them outside Los Angeles.

For the daughter of Lynda Mitsakos, that decision was a no-brainer.

"She is on a Division 2 swim team," said Mitsakos. Her daughter is on the swim team at Mira Costa High in Manhattan Beach, where she also takes Latin. Neither is offered at her neighborhood school, Westchester High School.

Mitsakos rejects any change in the permit policy that could force her daughter to go there. She's so adamant, she's ready to sell their home and relocate.

"I am not interrupted her education on a whim, so we'll move. It's a hardship but we'll do it," said Mitsakos.

The crux for the district is the budget. Wherever a student enrolls, dollars follow. The 12,000 students attending outside schools divert $51 million from the LAUSD. That is money the district now desperately needs to hold on to teachers.

"After January, this district took another hit from Sacramento of $180 million," said LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines.

Cortines had proposed a limit on permits, but after further review agreed to postpone a decision on changes.

"We will take a hard look at those who are applying for the first time," said Cortines.

Board members also want to ensure fairness.

Joelly Carrera from West L.A. is in a language-immersion program in Santa Monica.

"I like my school because it shows me two languages, it shows me Spanish, English," said Joelly.

But students Sun Valley or Pacoima do not have the same access. They live too far. The board wants to be sure these students don't lose out because of the funds that flee the district with transferring students.

Cortines said it's back to the drawing board. He said he still wants parents to apply for the permits, but he expects the vast majority will be approved.