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Not from 90210? Forget Going to School There

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Leslie Wasserman doesn't live in Beverly Hills, California, but her two daughters have been going to school in the tony 90210 zip code for 10 years. Come June, her youngest will have to find a new school.

woman and girl standing outside school

Ronda Kaysen: Last night, the Beverly Hills Unified School District approved the controversial plan to end the district's practice of allowing out-of-area students to attend its schools. The board voted unanimously to notify all so-called "permit students" in kindergarten through 8th grade that they must enroll elsewhere because of the district's new financing plan. The board will allow all high school students to remain in the district, reports KTLA.

For years, the monied school district has offered permits to hundreds of kids who don't live in Beverly Hills so that they could attend the famously good schools there. In exchange for each kid, the district received $6,200 from the state and filled empty seats. But that equation became less profitable once the city actually collected more money in property taxes for education than it could from state education coffers. So, the school district decided to become a "basic aid" district, meaning it will rely on its property tax base for funding rather than an attendance base. That means the permit system is gone, and kids who hail from other zip codes will need to find another place to call school.

The flap over what will happen with the approximately 775 children who attend the district's schools on a permit basis had reached such a fevered pitch that extra security was called to last night's school board meeting, and national news outlets had been hanging on the school board members' every word.

The crux of the debate lied with a portion of the permit kids, the so-called "opportunity permits." Supporters of the change wanted to see these kids gone by the end of the school year, reducing class size and hopefully enticing more Beverly Hills residents to reconsider public school. Critics argued that pulling kids out of schools they've known all their lives without enough time to consider other options is cruel and will harm the children. But Beverly Hills residents in favor of the change argued that parents make a choice when they don't buy in the well-heeled city.

"Membership has its privileges," Lisa Korbatov, vice president of the Beverly Hills school board, told the New York Times. "But anyone can be a member. I made a choice to spend more to live in a home here when I could have spent less on a bigger home in another area. But I made a choice and sacrificed."

Critics saw a different story: When it was in the city's best financial interests to have their kids come into Beverly Hills, they welcomed them with open arms. When the financial situation changed, they threw them out without warning.

"I get it, I totally get it, but we were asked to come here. I've been on the board of the PTA. I've given all my money to the school," said Wasserman, whose daughters are in the 9th and 6th grades. "Do the fair thing. Give us at least a year's notice or follow the other 13 school districts who are in the same situation, and who did the moral and ethical thing and matriculated the other children."

According to Wasserman, of the 13 other school districts that decided to change their permit policy, 12 of them chose to matriculate current students, meaning they could stay until they graduated out of the school system, and one district decided to let students stay until they reached a "natural breaking point."

Wasserman lives in Los Angeles, near West Hollywood, in a house that she inherited. Her husband owns a physical therapy business in Beverly Hills, which is how her kids ended up going to Beverly Hills schools in the first place. Their neighborhood high school, Fairfax High School, is overcrowded and has metal detectors, said Wasserman. She said she wouldn't feel comfortable sending her daughters there -- and the change comes too late in the year for the family to apply for private school.

"My little one is very upset, she doesn't understand," said Wasserman.

Proponents of the measure say there's an easy solution: Move.

"The parents should make the sacrifice that so many Beverly Hills parents have made and move into Beverly Hills because that's the only way to guarantee that your child is going to be able to continue in Beverly Hills Unified School District," said board member Brian Goldberg in a video that was posted on the Huffington Post.

More than 400 children are affected by last night's controversial decision.



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7 comments so far | Post a comment now
Pamala January 12, 2010, 4:00 PM

Love those rich folks, make the sacrifice and move. Sorry if you can’t afford to own a home in BH then it’s not good parenting to try to move to BH. It’s all a stupid situation in my opinion. They’ve given the parents no options at all. They should get at least one more year, so that if they do want to do private schools they can. The private school in this area you have to sign up by the end of Feb to get in, in other areas it’s even sooner. You can’t just ask parents to send their kids to substandard schools.

tennmom January 12, 2010, 5:28 PM

The poster must not have liked some of the comments, seems some (such as my first) have disappeared or were not “approved”. I’m of the opinion that if one posts on a public site, one should only delete/not allow a comment if it contains profanity.
I pay higher taxes living in my zip code/neighborhood than others living in different zip codes/neighborhoods. Why do the people living in a lower-tax zip code think they deserve the same services as I do?
If someone wants equality, fine, pay equal taxes.

Cheryl January 13, 2010, 9:20 AM

It is a shame that they stopped their program. I get it is a financial move for BH. However, it is crappy to kick the kids out midyear. BH school district has already received the funds for those children to be there for the current school year, and it is late in the year to research and find a suitable replacement. The kids should at least be able to finish the school year.

michelle January 13, 2010, 12:33 PM

It misses the point to argue over 90210. It happens everywhere. Some of the top-rated Chicago elem schools are already limiting enrollment to surrounding zip codes. This all adds up to evidence that the whole system of property-tax-based school funding is broken and leads to poor educational outcomes. Does tennmom seriously think that it is morally acceptable to base the quality of public education on their parents’ ability to pay higher taxes (i.e. must be rich enough to live in the best neighborhood or their kids are SOL)? That’s what private school is for. Also, since when is taxation a simple equation of you take out exactly what you put in? How does that even make sense?

Anonymous January 13, 2010, 12:54 PM

If you don’t live in the zip and pay the taxes then you don’t deserve to go to the shcool. End of story.

J.S. January 13, 2010, 1:36 PM

Monthly rent for my Beverly Hills apartment: $635.00. Not that bad, really. It even includes utilities. My mom moved to the 90212 zip code so that all three of her children could attend BH schools. We certainly weren’t rich enough to live in 90210. So get your facts straight before you accuse everyone who lives in our part of the world “rich.”


Cyna February 8, 2010, 12:38 PM

unfortunately the kids best interests arent a priority here. i think the kids currently in those schools should be allowed to continue until they finish the highest grade at that school and let the new policy only apply to new students who are trying to transfer in.


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