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School District Breakup Backers Vow to Press On : Education: Despite recent setbacks, leaders outline four strategies to keep effort on track. They hope to gauge strength of their support at parents summit.


Despite recent setbacks here and in Sacramento, leaders of the movement to break up the Los Angeles Unified School District vowed Thursday to push ahead and outlined four strategies, including a statewide initiative and possibly a lawsuit.

At a news conference in Van Nuys, the San Fernando Valley-based officials also said they will seek public opinion on how to proceed at an Aug. 8 "parents summit" scheduled, in part, to gauge how much support remains for their campaign to dismantle the country's second-largest school system.

Last week, the effort suffered a major blow when a key state Assembly committee defeated a bill aimed at placing a breakup plan on the November, 1994, ballot. A day earlier, the Los Angeles City Council refused to endorse the measure.

The sponsor of the defeated bill, state Sen. David A. Roberti (D-Van Nuys), insisted Thursday that he is undeterred.

Flanked by a dozen supporters ranging from liberal state Sen. Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica) to conservative state Assemblywoman Paula Boland (R-Granada Hills), Roberti touted the parents summit as "a rally to let the world know we are not giving up or letting go of this very important issue."

Others present included City Council members Joel Wachs, Laura Chick and Hal Bernson, as well as former school board member Roberta Weintraub.

Still reeling from last week's defeat, the group met to discuss their options and decide "where we go from here," as Roberti put it. The choices were narrowed to:

* Petitioning the State Board of Education to reorganize the 640,000-student school district, which Roberti described as "a cumbersome and lengthy process but one we feel we should start."

* A statewide initiative seeking voter approval for a breakup of the Los Angeles school district only. Teri Burns, a Roberti aide, said the committee is counting on support from taxpayers who resent the amount of funding funneled to Los Angeles schools and for that reason he believes a statewide rather than a local ballot measure may have a greater chance of passage.

* Joining a possible lawsuit under consideration by the school system's charter cities of Carson, Lomita and Huntington Park, whose representatives believe that they were unfairly denied a voice by the city of Los Angeles in last year's reapportionment of the district.

* Reviving a dormant breakup bill by Boland, then amending that measure to make it easier to petition the State Board of Education for the change.

One amendment proposal would require signatures from only 10% of the school district's registered voters instead of 25%. Another would allow the state board to modify breakup plans with proponents' approval instead of rejecting such proposals outright over minor issues.

The existing rules make "the task not only daunting but impossible and we need a vehicle to break down this wall that makes any change impossible," Boland said.

Roberti emphasized that no plan would become final until after the meeting with San Fernando Valley parents, scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 8, at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys.

The group ruled out pursuing legislation to increase the number of charter schools in Los Angeles, according to one source, who said the officials decided that public support for the independently run schools has been lukewarm.

Another strategy eliminated from the group's list of options was placing the breakup before voters as an advisory measure only. The measure was "not seen as substantial enough," the source said.

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