One-third of students out-of-district

Attendance bolsters Oak Park finances

EXCITED—Additional funds “enhance our program,” Superintendent Tony Knight says.

EXCITED—Additional funds “enhance our program,” Superintendent Tony Knight says.

Any student who does not live in Oak Park but wants to attend classes in the school district next fall must apply for a permit by Dec. 31, school officials said.

The end-of-the-year deadline is one of the requirements of the District of Choice law, a state law that allows children to attend the public school of their preference without obtaining permission from the school district in which they live.

“Additionally, the new law requires us to make known our DOC status and application process to people in the surrounding area in a way that does not target any particular group of students,” said Tony Knight, Oak Park schools superintendent.

An information night will take place at 7 p.m. Thurs., Nov. 19 at Oak Park High School for those interested in applying for a permit. School tours will be given throughout November and December.

An application does not guarantee acceptance in an Oak Park school. Based on space available, the district may have to select applicants through a random lottery which would be held in February, Knight said. Once accepted, a student may remain in Oak Park schools through graduation.

Under the law, neighboring districts must be provided with a list of their resident students who are attending other schools. Oak Park will send out those lists in February, Knight said.

“Our district has minimal impact on neighboring districts, who are so much larger,” Knight said. “For us, these students make a big difference.”

This year Oak Park has 1,178 nonresident students among its six schools and independent study program. Current total enrollment is 3,800 students. The district receives about $8,100 per student in total combined state, federal and local funding. That translates into more than $9.5 million in revenue for Oak Park for interdistrict students alone, Knight said.

Based on an average class size of 26, about 45 teachers are being employed to support these students, according to Knight. With the average teacher salary at $70,000, the cost to the district is about $3.1 million.

“The additional funds generated by these students are used to enhance our program—keep class sizes smaller, offer more electives, AP courses, athletics, music, etc.,” Knight said. “Without these students, we would be facing declining enrollment with corresponding drops in revenue along with drastic cuts in state funds due to the budget crisis. Our schools would look very different, and I assure you that none of us would find them to be acceptable.”

Eighty seniors on permit will graduate in June, said Cliff Moore, assistant superintendent for human resources. Those students are currently at Oak Park High, Oak View High and the Oak Park Independent School program.

Moore anticipates that there will be about 300 total permit openings among all district grade levels.

The growth in the number of permit students has allowed Oak Park to avoid major program cuts and furlough days “in the context of the most massive state budget cuts in California history,” Knight said.

“In other words our students on permit are allowing us to operate a highquality instructional program,” Knight said. “The nightmare scenario of a declining enrollment district in the midst of drastic cuts in revenue is being averted in Oak Park.”

The parents of permit students have “stepped up to the plate,” providing support to the district through volunteerism and monetary donations, Knight said.

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