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LAUSD seeks to allow more enrollment choices

January 10, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Parents in the Los Angeles Unified School District may soon have more choices when deciding where to send their kids to school.

LAUSD board member Steve Zimmer proposed a multi-faceted resolution Tuesday to study the district's declining enrollment trends, identify successful programs and streamline access to them.

The district is hoping the move will help boost enrollment.

"We have very successful programs that parents have chosen in isolated spots throughout our district, but we have no strategic plan to make sure that they are available to parents throughout our district," said LAUSD school board member Steve Zimmer.

While Zimmer's resolution was passed, there were lingering questions about cost and funding origin.

In 2007, the district had enrollment numbers reaching 700,000. Five years later, they have nearly 200,000 fewer students. The district has never tracked departing students to find out who is leaving and why.

One of the reasons for the district's decline enrollment is a low birthrate. But while there are not as many children in Los Angeles County, that doesn't explain the entire loss.

And with a smaller number of students, the district will receive even fewer state education dollars for a system crippled by budget cuts.

Magnet school parent Alex Wald has joined a revolt against the reductions.

"All of those essential things to having a successful school are being taken away," Wald said.

Another component is giving more options to parents struggling with magnet school requirements.

"We want to look at not only allowing parents to apply to one magnet school, but they would be able to have choices that they would be able to apply to at least three magnet schools. It's all about expanding choice within the district," Zimmer said.

Next week, board member Monica Garcia may propose an even more sweeping resolution that would allow students to abandon their own neighborhood school in order to attend any other school in the district.

However, other board members feel this is a lofty ambition. During a time when the budget for school buses has also been slashed, many parents worry now about how their students will get to the classroom, much less study there.

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy made a grim assessment.

"I actually believe at this point that the rights of the youth are completely imperiled, if not outright violated, by continued cuts in public education in the state of California," he said.