Bill would give live-in workers rights to area schools

Bill would give live-in workers rights to area schools

(Calif.) The law governing school residency would be expanded to include children whose parent resides at least three days a week at their place of employment under legislation pending in the state Senate.

SB 200 by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, comes in response to a high-profile case in the East Bay where a school district initially moved to exclude a second grader after discovering her mother maintained a principal residency in another community although worked as a live-in nanny within the district’s jurisdiction.

Orinda School District later reversed its decision after the employer agreed to become legal guardian of the child, according to the author’s office.

“The goal here is to keep the families unified,” Lara said. “We know that students are more successful when students are with their parents and in this case, Vivian, she and her mom are fleeing domestic violence. So there was no other option.”

There is perhaps no deeper sore spot between district administrators and parents than student residency. Good schools that border poor performing ones have always been forced to draw lines and vigorously defend them.

Under federal law, local educational agencies are required to give parents the option of transferring to another school inside the district when the neighborhood school falls into Program Improvement as a result of not meeting performance benchmarks.

Since 2009, LEAs are also bound by the state’s Open Enrollment Act, which calls out 1,000 of the state’s low achieving schools and gives parents the option of transferring their children to higher achieving schools that can be outside the district.

Another state law, adopted in 2011, permits LEAs to accept students if one parent is physically employed within the boundaries of the district but the transfer can be revoked if the parent’s job location changes.

Specifically, Lara’s bill would define compliance with the state’s residency as:

  • Any pupil whose parent or legal guardian resides outside of the boundaries of that school district but is employed and lives at the place of his or her employment within the boundaries of the school district for a minimum of three days during the school week.

The Orinda case drew special attention when it became public last fall, in part because the district had hired a private investigator to visit the child’s other, less affluent neighborhood about 20 miles away.

Although district officials have since apologized for its handling of the case, the use of investigators is not uncommon. Administrators have in the past defended such aggressive tactics as necessary to protect their district coffers.

A special needs student, for instance, can cost tens of thousands of dollars more annually than a general education pupil.

Lara said his bill will clarify the rights of thousands of live-in workers.

“It is simply wrong to believe that certain workers are okay to hire for service-jobs but not okay for their children to attend local school,” he said.

The bill is co-authored by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord.