Beverly Hills Cuts School Choice Program

Board members for the Beverly Hills school district have voted unanimously not to issue new inter-district permits for the upcoming school year. They also voted 4-1 in favor of continuing to revoke permits for non-resident students graduating from the fifth and eighth grades. The permits were used to promote diversity and for legacies; as a way to slightly open access to the district’s prized public schools.

The controversial move follows on from a 2010 decision to decline state aid, which granted money to the district per enrolled student, in favor of a basic aid system whereby education was paid for from property tax revenues. This meant that the district no longer received money for non-resident students and they have proven unwilling to pay the cost out of their own pocket.

“In our tough economic time, the school district can’t afford to have any additional students in our district that we are not required to educate,” said Brian David Goldberg, board president.

Goldberg attempted to justify the measure by noting that the Los Angeles Unified School District is losing money each year as a result of these permits, but that will be scant consolation to the affected students who will be flung back into the failing LA school system. It also comes in stark contrast to the general move towards school choice being adopted in many other parts of the country.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal recently signed into law an expansion of the state’s school voucher program. These vouchers allow parents to use government funding for their choice of private school tuition. Louisiana is not alone in this decision as 18 states provide some degree of private school choice through the tax code or a voucher program.

Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, is enthusiastic that states throughout the country are starting to realize that school choice works:

“Through the growth we saw in 2011 and the momentum we’re witnessing in 2012, our country is moving closer to Milton Friedman’s vision of school choice for all families,” Enlow added. “Through universally available vouchers, we fundamentally can change the way public education works, from a system that supports schools to a model that empowers students and parents.”

In contrast to the excitement surrounding school choice, a recent report by Great Lakes on a longitudinal study found that Milwaukee’s Parental Choice Program had no discernible benefits.

Beverly Hills schools district currently has about 4,600 students enrolled with roughly 10% using inter-district permits.