Angry parents have accused the Los Angeles Board of Education of deliberately attempting to make Paul Revere Junior High School in Brentwood a segregated school to make room for students from overcrowded schools.
Paul Revere is one of 48 schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District selected for increased minority enrollment this fall. The decision, approved by the board on Monday, will enable the district to provide classroom seats for 4,000 students, mostly Latino and Asian, from overcrowded central city schools.
The district previously limited minority enrollment to 60% in response to longstanding court orders requiring racial desegregation of the system. However, board members voted to increase minority enrollment to 70% at the 48 schools to take in more students from inner-city areas with growing minority populations. Officials said they believe the higher ratio complies with past legal mandates.
However, members of Paul Revere's community advisory council said that bringing in these students would lower academic standards and create problems for the new students.
"We feel our rights have been violated," said Karen Stone, the council's incoming co-chairwoman. "The quality of education is going to suffer. . . . It will have a negative impact on the kids coming in and a negative impact on those who are currently enrolled."
Jan Gong, the parent of a Revere student, accused the school board of "intentionally creating segregated schools. We feel this will result in (white) flight because it is not balanced. It will impact on minorities more than on the white community because there won't be a white community left. It's unfair to students and more unfair to minority students."
Revere's enrollment of about 1,300 students is roughly 50% white and 50% minority.
Stone and other parents said they doubt that Revere has the resources to handle the special educational needs of new students who will be bused from economically depressed communities where English is often not the primary language.
School officials said they were not prepared to say exactly how many students they intend to bus to each school in September.
The district plans to provide an additional $50 for each child moved from an overcrowded school. But officials said that schools in economically disadvantaged communities have smaller classes and receive as much as $400 a child in state and federal funds for special educational programs. The district is prohibited by law from transferring these funds and benefits to the new schools where the students will be sent.
As a result, school board member Alan Gershman, whose district includes the Westside, said he feared that the increased minority enrollment would have a "destabilizing impact" on some schools.
"My chief concern is that we run the risk of resegregating the schools," he said, warning that the change might result in white flight. Gershman and San Fernando Valley school board member Tom Bartman were the only board members to vote against the change.
Six other Westside schools are slated for increased minority enrollment: Venice High School, Emerson Junior High School and Overland, Gardner, Clover and Pacific Palisades elementary schools.
The decision brings to 76 the total number of Los Angeles city schools operating under the 70-30 ratio.
"I don't know what they expect us to do. There are no alternatives," said school board member Jackie Goldberg. "Many of the people who are against 70-30 are the same people who don't want year-round schools" to relieve overcrowding.
Goldberg said that resources are limited everywhere. She said she did not agree that the quality of education will suffer at schools where more minority students are brought in.
"The quality of the education goes up or down depending on the ability of the schools to meet the needs of the kids," she said. "Marshall High School (in the inner city) won the academic decathlon and it only has a 16% white population."
In the months leading up the ratio change, the district held community meetings and surveyed parents to determine how schools with a 70-30 ratio would be perceived. The district's analysis was required under state Supreme Court rulings on school desegregation.
Many Revere parents, however, said the Los Angeles district failed to take their concerns under consideration when it was doing the analysis. And some parents are even considering using that alleged lack of consideration as the basis for seeking a court order to block the plan.
'Scrambling to House Kids'
"The impression that we have been left with is that they are just scrambling to house kids," said Joanne Fife, the parent of a Revere student. "They went ahead and did this despite the reaction in the community."
Revere has operated a voluntary busing integration program with the Baldwin Hills community for years. School officials said that nearly 40% of the students at Revere receive special permits to attend.
The permit program, according to parents, has been successful because it is voluntary and the students are motivated to attend.
"The community and the (students on permits) have worked over the years to ensure the academic success of the program," said Joseph Gambrell, a parent who lives outside the Revere district. "If children are forced to go there, it will be a hassle."