SACRAMENTO — State Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig has recommended against a proposal to allow Lomita to set up its own school system, saying it would promote racial and ethnic segregation and discrimination.
In a report to the state Board of Education made public this week, Honig said the request to withdraw from the Los Angeles Unified School District "would adversely affect existing desegregation programs to such an extent" that it should be denied.
He said that 1,095 black, Asian and Latino elementary and junior high students would be among the 1,378 displaced if Lomita was allowed to secede. These students would be forced to attend Los Angeles schools with high minority enrollments, which, in the view of Honig's staff, would foster discrimination.
The state Board of Education is scheduled to consider the recommendation April 9-10 in Sacramento. The Department of Education, headed by Honig, serves as the board's staff.
If the board rejects Lomita's proposal, "then it's dead," said Reuben A. Burton, a manager in the state Department of Education whose office reviewed the case for Honig. However, he cautioned that the board could overrule the staff and call an election on the issue or seek more information and delay a decision until May.
Lomita City Councilman Robert Hargrave, who has championed the secession movement, said he was disappointed by the recommendation "because the racial issue is not germane to our situation. We want local autonomy and authority in our schools, and we're certainly not precluding anyone from attending our schools."
The Lomita secession drive began about two years ago with the formation of the Committee to Reorganize Lomita's Schools. The group successfully gathered the signatures of 25% of the city's estimated 10,000 voters--the number required to initiate secession proceedings with the county.
Supporters have sought to form their own district to increase local control of education and attempt to boost academic performance in a new, smaller 2,100-student district.
Last December, the drive cleared a major hurdle when the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization voted 6 to 4 to approve the petition to allow Lomita to pull out of the Los Angeles district.
But the committee split on a 5-5 vote over whether Lomita's withdrawal would promote racial or ethnic discrimination or segregation.
State officials say that if Lomita is allowed to break away, it could make it more difficult for Los Angeles to integrate its schools.
Burton said that the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People has filed a federal suit, charging that Los Angeles has intentionally discriminated against black students. He suggested that the Lomita withdrawal could affect that case because it would "remove one possible element" from any settlement discussions.
Figures Called Outdated
Supporters of the Lomita plan have rejected the notion that their proposal would promote segregation. They have argued that population figures are based on outdated 1980 census figures, which fail to reflect Lomita's growing minority population.
Lomita Mayor Hal Hall said on Tuesday that the secession movement is not sparked by any race issue. Instead, Hall said he supports the drive because the Los Angeles district is too large to respond to Lomita's concerns.
"They do not represent us. We are stepchildren," Hall said. Hall also said that if the state board rejects Lomita's bid to secede "they're going to have us on their tail until they allow us to get out."