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School Purchases From S. Africa Firms Outlawed

August 27, 1985|PAMELA MORELAND | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles School Board on Monday voted to ban future purchases from companies, or subsidiaries of companies, based in South Africa.

School officials said to the best of their knowledge only one such company currently holds a contract with the district. That contract, held by Solar Glass USA, is worth $150,000 to $175,000, Louis P. Davis, the district's purchasing manager, said. Under the rule adopted Monday, the Solar Glass USA contract will not be renewed.

The purchasing ban decision comes just a few weeks before the board begins another debate on the district's South African ties. That debate will focus on a proposal to divest investments from the district's operating funds from any "institutions with direct connection to South Africa."

Currently the district has $200 million of its operating funds in an investment pool managed by Los Angeles County. The divestiture proposal, authored by Jackie Goldberg and Alan Gershman, would separate the district's funds from the rest of the investment pool.

It was school board President Rita Walters who led the successful fight Monday for a purchasing ban. While all board members criticized the South African government's strict racial segregation policy, some said they could not vote in favor of Walters' proposal because of unanswered legal questions about the policy.

"We have certain obligations as a public agency and there could be some real legal problems if we rejected a low bid because we are suddenly going to use some kind of political test," said board member John Greenwood.

But Walters argued that there are "sufficient companies providing goods, services and material based in our own country so that we do not need to do business with South African companies."

The final vote was 4-3 with Walters, Goldberg, Gershman, and Larry Gonzales voting in favor of the motion. Greenwood, Roberta Weintraub and David Armor voted against the proposal.

Impetus for the purchasing ban began several weeks ago when Walters was informed that the district was buying replacement window glass from a North Hollywood company that in 1984 was acquired by a South African firm.

That company, Solar Glass USA, was formerly known as North Hollywood Glass & Plastics. Office manager Pat Roberts said the company has been a district contractor for 10 years.

The board will continue the South Africa debate Sept. 5, when it will hold its first public hearing on the divestiture proposal authored by Goldberg and Gershman.

Effect of Resolution

That resolution calls for district funds to be withdrawn from any companies cited by the Investor Responsibility Research Center, a New York-based organization that monitors American corporations doing business in South Africa. The proposal also calls for the district to end any relationship with financial institutions that make loans to the South African government.

By 1986, the Goldberg-Gershman motion would also remove the district's investments from banks that make loans to companies with ties to South Africa.

The board on Monday also unanimously approved its 1985-86 budget. The $2.7-billion budget contains $309 million more than last year and will allow the district to reinstate some elementary school nurses, provide air conditioning for year-round schools and create junior high programs for troubled students. The board also plans to use the additional funds to provide nuclear awareness programs and multi-cultural classes.

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