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LOMITA : Racial Data to Figure in 2nd Secession Bid

November 10, 1994|DAVE GRIMM

For the second time, the racial mix of students in Lomita's schools may affect the city's bid to secede from the Los Angeles Unified School District.

But this time the state Board of Education will compare the racial mix of the proposed Lomita Unified School District with the mix of the city's population, a comparison the board didn't make in denying a similar bid by Lomita in 1987. "It will be a consideration the board has not seen, so it could be a determining factor," said county spokesman Greg Magnuson.

The secession would push the racial makeup of Lomita's schoolchildren from 28.3% to 43.8% white, according to a preliminary report submitted Nov. 2 to the county Committee on School District Organization. But the city itself is 68.4% white, according to the report. Since Lomita's proposed school district would be more integrated than the city itself, the mix might be considered favorable, Magnuson said.

Black student enrollment in Lomita schools would drop from 17.7% to 9.9%, while Latino enrollment would fall from 40.6% to 35.2%, the study estimated. Asian enrollment would increase from 6.4% to 7.1%.

Lomita's first bid made it as far as the state Board of Education, which cited segregation concerns in its denial. The final county report and recommendation are to go to the state Board of Education on Jan. 4.

Lomita's new school district would serve about 2,000 students attending Eshelman Avenue Elementary and Lomita Elementary, a magnet school. Fleming Middle School would become a high school or a combined junior and senior high school.

The county committee is expected to investigate several other issues before submitting the final report to the state, Magnuson said. Prominent among these are Lomita's plans for its special-education students and for the estimated 1,700 students who live outside the city but attend Lomita schools, he said.

Organizers of Lomita's secession battle say Los Angeles Unified is too big and too far away to meet the needs of the city's schools.

Cindy Grant, a spokeswoman for the movement, called the report's ethnic concerns a smoke screen for the real issue: Los Angeles Unified's dwindling size.

"If we break away, that's the start of the domino process," Grant said. "Carson wants to go, Gardena wants to go. Everybody wants to get out."

Though secessionists remain optimistic, Magnuson would not speculate on the outcome of the county's final report. "The ethnic concerns have changed considerably," he said, "but whether it's enough to change what was a disapproval to an approval, I don't know."

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