Beverly Hills considers closing schools to outsiders to cut costs

484 students to be booted as state aid shrinks

By Christina Hoag
Associated Press / December 30, 2009

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Threats on Facebook, name-calling, security guard escorts - tempers are running high around schools these days in this normally sedate enclave of ostentatious wealth.

The reason: The Beverly Hills Board of Education is preparing to boot out 10 percent of its students as it ends a decades-old practice of allowing out-of-district pupils to attend city schools on “opportunity permits.’’

The move has upset many so-called permit parents, mostly middle-class families living in the tonier areas of Los Angeles who are loath to send their children to the beleaguered Los Angeles Unified School District, where more than a quarter of high-schoolers drop out.

“Every family on permit is outraged,’’ said Simy Levy, a Los Angeles resident whose two daughters attend school in Beverly Hills. “It’s incredibly unfair.’’

The plan, expected to get final board approval next month, is being implemented as the Beverly Hills Unified School District switches to a budget plan financed directly by the city’s well-to-do tax base, instead of with state money based on enrollment. The change results from steep cuts in state aid that have left several affluent communities paying more school taxes to the state than they receive.

Beverly Hills is the latest to consider self-financing, keeping its school taxes and forgoing the $6,239 the state sends for each nonresident student.

Without the financial incentive of enrolling outsiders, district officials are concerned that their taxpayers would be subsidizing nonresidents’ education.

“What is wrong with me saying, ‘We have to save our resources for residents?’’’ said Lisa Korbatov, vice president of the Beverly Hills school board. “Our police do not respond to neighboring cities if someone is mugged or assaulted.’’

Beverly Hills would end outside enrollment next school year. The plan would affect 484 children, most of whom would have to attend private school or a Los Angeles public school if ousted from the 4,891-pupil district.

Permit parents say their children should at least be allowed to finish their education at Beverly Hills.