It was like a dream come true for hundreds of children -- instead of attending school in Los Angeles' oft-dysfunctional public school system, they were allowed to go to school in ritzy Beverly Hills. But that dream of a no-cost, excellent education is coming crashing down, as the school board is set to expel many of those students. And it's all about money.
With enrollment in its schools declining over the past several years, Beverly Hills, which is a separate city from Los Angeles, opened its doors to some children of L.A. Currently one in seven Beverly Hills students -- or 775 of the roughly 4,800 students -- attend with an out-of-district permit.
Beverly Hills' motives were less than noble -- the extra students meant extra money from the state, in the form of $6,239 per student this year, according to The New York Times.
But now cash-strapped California is changing its schools funding formula, and Beverly Hills will no longer receive any money from the state. So with no additional money, no outside kids, says the school board.
“Membership has its privileges,” said Lisa Korbatov, vice president of the Beverly Hills school board. “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.”
Korbatov's rationale is "City services, be they fire, police, schools, are reserved for residents and their children.”
The board says without money from the state, the outside kids would drain $2 million from the yearly budget of $62.5 million.
L.A. parents, who have taken advantage of the permits, are appalled, saying their children were welcome when they meant money -- but are now being shut out. “Our kids brought them the money to put programs together that they did not have before,” said Michelle Menna, whose 13-year-old daughter Liat will likely have to find a new school next year.
“We happen to live in L.A.” said Menna, “But her life and her after-school life since she moved here is with the children of Beverly Hills. It’s like they are breaking up her family."
But the parents have at least one board member on their side. “I am seething mad,” Myra Lurie said. “We invited these kids in, and they have been part of the family and the fabric of our district. People are not well served in my community by looking mean-spirited or elitist.”
Not every student would be kicked out of school, however. About 110 children whose parents work for the district or the municipal government would be allowed to stay. Roughly 50 have been granted special permission for a variety of reasons. About 65 are on “diversity” permits, which are issued to some families who apply from poor neighborhoods. And 45 have so-called legacy permits — their parents attended Beverly Hills schools and their grandparents still live here.
That leaves close to 500 non-resident children on so called "opportunity permits." At a meeting last Friday, board members outlined a plan that would do away with those permits, while allowing some students to stay on a little longer. Under the proposal, seventh graders could attend eighth grade to finish middle school before finding a new district for high school, and 10th and 11th graders would be able to stay through graduation.
A final vote will be taken next month at a public board meeting that is expected to be so contentious, police are already on call to attend to keep the peace. Liat Menna says she and her mom will also attend.
“To know they don’t want me,” she said, “it hurts.”