SACRAMENTO — A bill to extend for three years an agreement allowing 5,000 full-time students from Los Angeles to attend Santa Monica College passed its first hurdle in the Assembly on Tuesday.
The measure, by Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica), was approved by the Assembly Education Committee's subcommittee on higher education on a 5-2 vote and sent to the full panel, which is scheduled to consider it next Tuesday.
Hayden argued that the bill provided a framework for a compromise between the two districts, which have been squabbling about the future of inter-district student transfers. An agreement allowing the free flow of students between the two districts expires in June.
Hayden said the legislation is "a major step toward reducing friction" between the two college districts.
However, Assemblywoman Teresa Hughes (D-Los Angeles), who heads the Education Committee, opposed the measure. She urged the committee to wait until a state committee on higher education makes public this spring recommendations on the future of community colleges.
Assemblyman Robert Campbell (D-Richmond) also voted against the measure. He questioned whether the two districts need state legislation to resolve their differences.
The state reimburses Santa Monica about $20 million a year or $2,200 a student--with about half the money coming from students who live in Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Community College District, which has faced severe financial problems, has sought to limit the number of inter-district transfers in order to retain the money. Last year Gov. George Deukmejian vetoed a $5-million bail-out for the Los Angeles district, in part because the district opposed legislation to allow the free flow of students between districts. The Los Angeles district continued to oppose the measure and it was shelved.
Hayden has tried to find a short-term solution to the conflict between Los Angeles and Santa Monica. In addition to his legislation, the two districts have formed an educational consortium.
As part of the consortium, Santa Monica College agreed to limit enrollment Los Angeles students for the spring semester that starts Feb. 10.
Hayden said this was necessary because more than 5,000 full-time students from Los Angeles were found to be attending Santa Monica. Indeed, as many as 6,500 Los Angeles residents may go to Santa Monica College, school officials estimated at Tuesday's hearing. On the other hand, only a few hundred Santa Monica residents take classes in the Los Angeles district.
Santa Monica College also has agreed to offer such popular classes as real estate and administration of justice at West Los Angeles College.
West Los Angeles College hopes to gain about 600 students through the new agreement. Enrollment, which has declined 15% in the last year, currently stands at about 6,000.