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Informed Opinions on Today's Topics : A Battle Over the Future of L. A. Schools

May 07, 1993

The Los Angeles Unified School District is the nation's second largest, serving 641,000 students and covering 700 square miles. There is a move afoot to decentralize the district, dividing it into smaller units. Opponents of the plan say splintering the district will only create additional bureaucracies. Others call it a disguised attempt to create a district in the San Fernando Valley that contains fewer minorities.

Would education improve in San Fernando Valley schools if they withdrew from the Los Angeles Unified School District?

State Sen. David Roberti (D-Van Nuys), who has sponsored legislation to establish a commission to develop a plan for dividing the district into smaller units:

"I neither aspire, nor desire, to cut the ties between the schools in the Valley and Los Angeles. My legislation, if enacted, would create several districts, not merely one Los Angeles district and one Valley district.

The aim of my legislation is to ensure that every child, regardless of where he or she may go to school, be provided with the opportunity to experience quality education. The key toquality education lies in increased parental and community involvement.

Jeff Horton, board member, Los Angeles Unified School District:

"No. The real problems with the schools in all of Los Angeles are that the classes are too big. There aren't enough supplemental services and activities for children, and too many kids have to travel long distances. A separate Valley district wouldn't have any more resources to address these problems and would have to spend more money on central office functions."

Julie Korenstein, board member, Los Angeles Unified School District:

"The Los Angeles Unified School District . . . has become so large that it is no longer manageable. A separate San Fernando Valley school district will allow for increased local autonomy, local decision-making and accountability. Restructuring and decentralization will bring decision making closer to parents, teachers and principals and will break the stronghold of the downtown bureaucracy. There is still the need for improved and stable funding whatever the size of any new district."

Dr. Jose Hernandez, chairman of the Cal State Northridge Urban Studies program and a member of the San Fernando City Council:

In terms of the Latino children, I have some question as to whether it will improve education. Minority parents lack the skill to talk to teachers and administrators, so I don't think it will improve unless minority parents are taught the necessary communication skills. We need to improve the school curriculum. There have to be courses and programs that relate to the minority children."

John Perez, vice president, United Teachers-Los Angeles:

"The basic problem is that breaking up the district does not address the fundamental issue of lack of funding. Breaking up the district will create more bureaucracy, not less. Unless you address how the schools deliver the service, which is education, you again fail to address another fundamental issue. Breaking up the district doesn't address either one of those at all, so why do it?

Eli Brent, president, Associated Administrators of Los Angeles:

"It probably would help, if we don't come up with anything else. My perception is anything that would get the community closer to the schools has to improve the education. Unless the public feels they have ownership of an enterprise, they are going to feel alienated and isolated. If it means pulling the Valley away from the district, so be it."

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