SOUTH GATE — City officials assert statistics obtained from the Los Angeles Unified School District show that inner-city high school students, who are predominantly from minority groups, are discriminated against because they are taught by the district's least-experienced teachers.
City Atty. Bruce Boogaard, who compiled the statistics, said the data shows that the district's inner-city high schools, such as South Gate, have the highest concentration of minority students, less-experienced teachers and lower California Assessment Program test scores than suburban schools.
City officials are using the statistics in a dispute with the school district over plans to relieve overcrowding at South Gate High School by sending local students to Jordan High School in Watts beginning in September.
Boogaard, discussing the statistics in an interview last week, charged school district officials with permitting experienced teachers to flee inner-city schools such as South Gate or Jordan.
The current deployment of teachers "perpetuates a socioeconomic disparity" between inner-city and suburban schools, he said.
"More experienced teachers are better teachers," Boogaard asserted, adding, "If the district can't provide equal quality education they should get out of the business and cede that authority to local communities."
A spokesman for the district, Bill Rivera, replied that the students are not being discriminated against because "experience doesn't necessarily indicate the caliber of the teachers."
Rivera added that inner-city schools tend to have less-experienced teachers because the higher birthrate for minorities causes enrollments to grow rapidly at these schools and that requires hiring more new teachers.
Larry Gonzalez, a school board member, said that the district has tried for years to address the problem of less-experienced teachers in inner-city schools, though he maintained that South Gate students attending Jordan would receive as good an education as students elsewhere in the district.
To address the disparity in teaching experience, the district last year sought authority to transfer teachers, but ran into stiff opposition from the teachers union, Rivera said.
District officials "would like to be able to move teachers according to the needs of the students, but you can't do that without trampling on the rights of teachers," he said. He added that under the current contract with the teachers union, teachers with two years in the system can be transferred at their request to fill openings at other schools, in accordance with a complicated formula that includes seniority.
South Gate officials have been at odds with Los Angeles school officials since the school board's unanimous decision May 6 to send about 250 students from overcrowded South Gate High to Jordan, which is less crowded and located less than a mile away.
Seeking to overturn the school board's ruling, the city sued the school district in June but lost in a decision earlier this month by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John C. Cole. City officials and residents who are party to the suit have decided to appeal, said Boogaard, though the papers have not yet been filed.
Not Mentioned in Decision
The contention that South Gate students are discriminated against because they are taught by less-experienced teachers was raised in the unsuccessful lawsuit but not addressed in the judge's decision, Boogaard said.
Boogaard compiled the statistics in computer-made charts to use in arguing the suit.
Boogaard's data shows that teachers at South Gate High School have an average of 12.8 years of experience, and teachers at Jordan High have an average of 12.3 years of experience.
Meanwhile, at Sylmar High in the San Fernando Valley, where 300 South Gate students are bused, teachers have an average of 16.2 years of experience. At Verdugo Hills High in Tujunga, teachers have 18.2 years of experience; at San Pedro, teachers have 18.7 years experience, and at Palisades High in Pacific Palisades, teachers are the most experienced in the district, with 19.8 years of experience.
Boogaard maintained that the disparity in teaching experience helps contribute to lower CAP scores in inner-city schools because, he asserted, more experienced teachers are better at teaching minority students.
'Not Less Capable of Learning'
"I'm not prepared to accept the fact that a minority child is any less capable of learning than a non-minority child," Boogaard said.
At Jordan High, where 69% of the students are black and 30% are Latino, the average CAP score last year was 48.8. At South Gate, which is 86% Latino and 2% black, the average CAP score last year was 58.3.
In contrast, at Sylmar, where there is a higher level of teacher experience and a lower percentage (56%) of black and Latino students, the average CAP score was 58.4.