The Los Angeles Board of Education voted Monday to alter the ethnic ratios at 48 schools, allowing more minority youngsters from overcrowded schools to be sent there.
The vote enables the school district to raise the minority enrollment at the schools to 70% while still regarding the schools as "integrated." The district tries to maintain most enrollments at no more than 60% minority students with at least 40% white students.
Changes in the ethnic ratios are needed, officials said, to increase the number of classroom seats and accommodate the district's fast-growing student population. The new 70-30 ratio would provide 4,000 more seats at the designated schools, mostly on the Westside and in the West San Fernando Valley.
Angry parents told board members that they were intentionally creating segregated schools. Many of the schools slated for the conversion have integrated student bodies, parents said. Dramatically increasing the number of minority students would be tampering with a delicate balance that has been acceptable to the community, they said.
"Opposing this plan puts many of us in a peculiar position because we believe in integrated education. If we didn't, we wouldn't be in public schools," said Pam Bruns, who has a child at Pacific Palisades Elementary School. "But the district is intentionally creating segregated schools. That does no one any good."
The several courts that monitor the district's desegregation activities have approved the 60-40 ratio as meeting legal mandates. There have been no court challenges to the 70-30 plan, and district officials said they believe the change would stand up to a legal test.
Monday's 5-2 vote will bring the total number of Los Angeles city schools operating under the 70-30 plan to 76. Most are in the West Valley or on the Westside, where schools are less crowded than in the inner-city areas that are producing most of the district's surge in enrollment. The district hopes that by increasing the number of minority students--primarily Latinos and Asians--on less crowded campuses, it will be able to delay placing additional schools on a year-round schedule, another way of creating more classroom space.
The board's decision to alter the integration ratios came after months of grass-roots meetings at which parents, faculty and members of the business community at each school discussed the implications of raising minority enrollment to 70%.
The school communities were surveyed about their perceptions through questionnaires based on a landmark California desegregation case in Oxnard. According to the 1982 ruling, a school district can alter ethnic ratios at schools that historically have never had a minority enrollment of 70% or more only if the community says it would not perceive such a school to be racially segregated.
At Monday's meeting, parents said the district's survey was riddled with inaccuracies, poorly written, difficult to understand and structured to reach predetermined conclusions.
Board members, expecting 15,000 new students to enroll in the district each year until 1990, said they had little choice except to vote for the change.
"We don't want year-round, we don't want 70%-30%, we want it all to go away," lamented board member Roberta Weintraub. "But it won't go away."