Alternative Attendance Statutes

LEGISLATURE RE-AUTHORIZES ALTERNATIVE ATTENDANCE STATUTES

In 2003, legislation relating to alternative attendance options was due to sunset.  This included legislation requiring districts to consider as district residents those pupils whose parents work within the district, and legislation concerning the consideration of child care needs in granting inter-district transfers.  Also sunsetting was legislation authorizing ”school districts of choice,” referring to districts which elect to receive students from other districts through an unbiased process, with limited ability for the district of residence to object.

Senate Bill 140, enacted at the end of the 2003 session, restored the parent residence statute and the statutory provisions concerning consideration of child care needs.  However, the bill contained a provision that it would become operative only if Assembly Bill 97, the bill restoring the school district of choice legislation, was enacted and took effect.  Due to last minute political wrangling, AB 97 did not become law during the 2003 session.

The Legislature has now passed, and the Governor has signed, AB 97.  The result is that all of these programs are now restored with some modifications.  AB 97 was enacted as urgency legislation and is now effective.

Consideration of Child Care Needs.  Under the prior version of the inter-district transfer statutes, when a transfer was granted on the basis of child care needs, the pupil was not required to re-apply in subsequent years and the transferee district was required to permit the student to remain continuously enrolled there, with limited exceptions.  If the student was enrolled on this basis in an elementary district, the high school district fed by the elementary district was required to permit the student to remain enrolled there through the 12th grade.

Under the new legislation (in effect through 2007 unless extended), districts admitting pupils in grades 1-6 on the basis of child care needs may not require those pupils to re-apply so long as the pupil continues to receive child care in the district; however, the district is only encouraged, not required, to permit the pupil to remain continuously enrolled.  The high school district into which the transferee elementary school feeds is likewise encouraged but not required to permit the pupil to remain enrolled through the twelfth grade.  (Education Code section 46601.5)

Parent Employment.  The prior statute provided that an elementary pupil would be deemed a resident of a district if either parent was employed within the district’s boundaries, subject to certain exceptions specified in the statute.  (Former Education Code section 48204(f))  If a district denied admission requested on the basis of parent employment, the district was required to identify and communicate the reasons for the denial.  Once the pupil met the residency requirement in this way, the statute provided that the district was required to allow the pupil to attend school through the 12th grade.  (The statute seemed to contemplate only unified districts and did not address the situation where the elementary pupil transfers to a different district in the same area [e.g., high school district] beginning in 9th grade.  It was also somewhat unclear as to whether, once residency status was established, a parent still had to be employed in the district in succeeding years.)

The new law permits, but does not require, a district to consider any pupil (not just an elementary pupil) to be a resident of the district based on parent employment in the district. The exceptions stated in the former statute have been carried over (impact on desegregation plan, additional cost of education exceeds state aid received, etc.).  A district denying a transfer is ”encouraged to,” but is no longer required to specify and communicate the reasons for the denial.  (Education Code section 48204(b))  Once a pupil is deemed a resident under this statute and enrolled in a district whose boundaries include the location where a parent is employed, the student is not required to reapply in the next school year to attend there and the district must permit the student to continue to attend there through the 12th grade, so long as a parent continues to be employed within the district’s boundaries.  Read strictly, the statute would not appear to bind a high school district to a residency determination by a feeder elementary.

The new statute does not address the plight of students who were required to be granted residency status under the prior law.  Presumably, a district would be permitted to consider those students residents under the new statute (at least where a parent continues to be employed in the district), but it is not clear whether a district would be required to do so.  The new version becomes inoperative July 1, 2007.  The statute which becomes operative at that time deletes residency based on parent employment altogether.

School Districts of Choice.  The school district of choice legislation was reauthorized with only minor changes, and was renumbered (from Education Code section 48209 and following to Education Code section 48300 and following).  It becomes inoperative July 1, 2007 unless extended.

The new legislation encourages school districts (does not specify only ”school districts of choice”) to hold informational hearings on the educational program offered by the district so parents can provide input on improvement methods and make informed decisions concerning their children’s education.  (Under the prior statute, this was required only during the spring semester of 1994.)  Under the prior statute, if a school district of choice rejected an application for enrollment, it was required to ensure that the minutes of the board meeting at which the determination to deny enrollment was made reflected the specific reasons for the denial.  Under the new legislation, this is no longer mandatory.