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Los Angeles

Both Sides of School District Breakup Effort Denounce Secessionists

September 14, 2002|SHARON BERNSTEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Proponents of breaking up the Los Angeles Unified School District joined with district officials Friday to denounce claims by supporters of San Fernando Valley's secession, who say that cityhood would lead to a separate Valley school district.

"Seceding from the city of Los Angeles has nothing to do with the schools," said Stephanie Carter, the chief petitioner in an effort nine months ago to break up the school district.

Secession "will not affect L.A. Unified at all," said school board member Julie Korenstein, who joined Carter at a Reseda news conference.

With them were former Rep. Bobbie Fiedler, a longtime advocate of the breakup of Los Angeles Unified, and school board President Caprice Young.

Secession proponents acknowledge that cityhood alone would not create a new school district for the San Fernando Valley. But they have placed the schools issue prominently in their literature and made it one of their talking points in debates.

They argue that, while breaking up Los Angeles would not immediately create a new school district, a new Valley city would be in a strong position to press for its own district.

"We don't know what would happen if there was a city standing in front of them the size of the San Fernando Valley saying we want our own school district," said Richard Katz, co-chairman of the San Fernando Valley Independence Committee.

"We don't know what would happen. We don't know because it's never happened before," he said.

But Carter and Fiedler, who joined in the breakup petition nine months ago, said the process does not work that way.

"Years ago, there was a relationship between the city of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Unified School District," Fiedler said. Today, the district comprises part or all of 28 cities, she said.

The process for breaking up a district is long and arduous, Fiedler and Carter said. And the state Board of Education, which studies any such proposals, does not consider whether the petitioner is a large city or a single person.

Rather, the state board looks at issues such as whether there will be enough school buildings in any new district, the effects on the remaining parts of the district and the overall functioning of the existing district, Young said.

In the most recent case, the state board said it wanted to give the reforms and innovations in Los Angeles Unified a chance to work, Young said. The board also said that there would be too few schools in the rest of the district if the Valley portion were removed.

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