REGION — Embracing the latest school board remapping plan, Westside member Mark Slavkin said he will "absolutely" run for the new seat and press for fundamental changes in how Los Angeles schools are governed. The newly drawn boundaries keep most of his present Westside seat intact but pit him against the west San Fernando Valley's board member in next year's elections.
"It's a done deal," he said of plan, which is expected to be approved by the full City Council on Friday. "But this whole argument misses the larger point--the (flaws in the) whole structure of the system."
"Where is it written that only seven people should govern a district this large? We need to decentralize, to give control to local schools and take away political control from downtown."
Slavkin's seat had been jeopardized by a reapportionment plan proposed by the Latino Redistricting Coalition, which contends that the federal Voting Rights Act mandates redrawing district boundaries to reflect the burgeoning Latino population. The original plan would have carved up the Westside district, attaching sections of it to three other districts.
A hastily formed Westside Coalition of parents successfully fought the plan, and west Valley board member Julie Korenstein's ox will be gored instead of Slavkin's. The plan recommended by the council's ad hoc committee on redistricting--for which a majority of the council has already indicated support--would create a second Latino district, preserve board member Roberta Weintraub's central Valley district, and leave Slavkin and Korenstein to fight it out in next year's elections for a district that spans the Westside and west Valley.
Slavkin would lose a strip bounded by Venice and Palms boulevards and Centinela and Fairfax avenues to Barbara Boudreau, who holds the South-Central seat on the board, and Hollywood-based board member Jeff Horton would pick up an area of Studio City, North Hollywood and Sun Valley.
Although he would lose Charnock Road, Palms and Shenandoah Street elementary schools, Slavkin would keep Venice, Hamilton, University, Palisades and Westchester high schools and most of the lower schools that feed into them. The fate of Palms Junior High is unclear, since it straddles the proposed dividing line between two districts. The Westside district would include Woodland Hills, West Hills, Canoga Park and Chatsworth in the Valley.
"It's a compromise that is less than ideal, but I can live with it," Slavkin said. "On the pro side, the remapping sees that all ethnic groups have advocates on the board. But on the con side, it reinforces divisions within the city and permits people to see themselves as responsive to a single group." Under the proposal, the Westside district would be 73% white; two districts would be more than 75% Latino, and one district would remain largely black.
Although the revised plan appears to honor Weintraub's political clout with the council by leaving her mid-Valley district undisturbed, Slavkin said there is some logic in adding portions of Korenstein's west Valley district to his Westside seat "because the Westside and west Valley schools have interests in common."
"Both feature receiver schools that receive students from over-crowded inner-city schools, both have a larger white enrollment than the district as a whole, and both have a high degree of parent activism.
"However, on other issues we are different," he added. "The Valley's critical concern with air conditioning, for example, is not a raging issue on the Westside. I'm sympathetic to this.
"It's not a perfect map. It's one that's easy to attack but harder to come up with a counterproposal that passes legal muster and can garner a majority of votes on the council."
A coalition of outraged Valley groups is voicing many of the same objections Slavkin had to the earlier plan, namely that the Valley should not be carved up and appended to districts that represent different, often conflicting, interests.
At a news conference in Pacoima on Monday, the president of the Valley-based 31st District PTA urged that the council "keep the Valley together," arguing that "we do not want our leadership from over the hill."
Comments made by various council members earlier this week, in rejecting Valley critics' protests, indicated that the new plan will have smooth going when it comes up for the vote.
But Korenstein, whose seat would be endangered, said the new boundaries are not in the interest of the Valley or the Westside. She said the plan will be divisive to cohesive communities and, because of the large geographic areas artificially lumped together, "totally unmanageable for any board member" regardless of whether she or Slavkin wins the seat.
Noting that the committee that approved the plan had no Valley representation, she warned that any council member who fails to vote against the proposed plan could face political retribution. "People are mad as all get-out about this," she said.
Slavkin credited the Westside coalition with saving his seat. "Because of their hustle, they were able to turn things around. The Latino coalition plan would have squeezed the Westside out into other districts; it was beaten back." Parent activists had inundated council members with phone calls, letters and private meetings since April, when news of the proposed elimination of the Westside seat became public.
Slavkin said the issue galvanized Westsiders. City Council members Ruth Galanter, Marvin Braude and Zev Yaroslavsky provided "tremendous support" and worked closely with the parent activists, he said. The new Westside district will draw 60% of its population from the Westside and 40% from the west Valley, "which will be favorable to me from a political point of view," Slavkin said.