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Foes of Year-Round Schools View Breakup Study as No Great Break

November 02, 1987|PAMELA MORELAND | Times Staff Writer

Opponents of year-round schools said they found little comfort in state Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig's proposal to study breaking up large school systems such as the Los Angeles Unified School District.

On the other hand, members of the dormant San Fernando Valley movement to secede from the Los Angeles district said they felt vindicated by Honig's suggestions that the 618-school system could be too large to run efficiently.

Dan Shapiro, an Encino attorney who is a spokesman for QUEST (Quality Education for Students), a group opposed to a districtwide year-round schedule, said Honig's proposal would not stop the district from trying to introduce a 12-month calendar.

"All of the district administrators are completely committed to year-round," said Shapiro. "We cannot be deterred in our fight because someone has proposed a study."

The request for a study on breaking up large school districts was the most controversial of 70 points in a proposal for raising academic standards, improving efficiency and demanding more financial accountability of schools that Honig outlined last week before the governor's Commission on Educational Quality.

The issue of school-district size is not a new one for the Los Angeles district.

In 1982, a state-funded study by the Evaluation and Training Institute looked at dividing the district but recommended that it remain untouched.

In the early 1980s, Valley residents circulated petitions that called for Valley schools to leave the district. The effort failed to gather enough signatures. And just last year, several cities near the Harbor area failed in their attempt to leave the Los Angeles district and establish their own school system.

Honig's call for a study gives new life to an issue many thought was dead.

"He really got my juices going again," said Leonard Milstein, chairman of the defunct Valley School Project, the group that circulated secession petitions. "I hope that some of us are called on to testify before the commission, because I believe that students get a better education when there is local control."

Breaking up the system into small, independent districts could provide opportunities for individual communities to come up with their own answers to crowding problems.

Advocates of a year-round system for all Los Angeles district schools see the schedule as a way not only to treat all district schools equally but to increase space at uncrowded schools for students from crowded campuses.

In 1982, Assemblywoman Marian W. La Follette (R-Northridge), introduced legislation to separate Valley schools from the Los Angeles district. The bill died in the Assembly Education Committee.

La Follette said Honig's proposal may resurrect her legislation, but added: "I'm not going to introduce any drastic legislation until three things happen. First, the state auditor's report on the district procurement procedures is completed. Second, the findings of the governor's task force are in. And finally, the release of any report that may result from Honig's suggestion."

East Valley school board representative Roberta Weintraub, who was against breaking up the district during the 1980s petition drive, said that Honig's proposal "raises hopes where none exist."

"It really doesn't make sense," she said. "We've been through this before. We've had an excellent study done, and the results showed that breaking up the district isn't feasible.

"I'm not denying that the district is too big, but what are we going replace it with? Ten different districts with 10 different school boards and 10 different bureaucracies?"

She added: "I think this proposal will be wonderful for Bill when he runs for governor."

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