L.A. Baby Boom May Add 70,000 to City Classrooms

Times Education Writer

The Los Angeles Board of Education expects its district to gain 70,000 students in the next five years as a result of a surging birth rate in the greater metropolitan area, officials said Monday.

The projected increase in the school enrollment will aggravate the district's most severe problems--overcrowding in the inner-city schools and a shortage of qualified teachers, according to John Greenwood, president of the school board.

After hitting a low point of 538,000 in 1980, the number of children in the city schools has been growing at an increasing rate. This year's enrollment went up 8,700 to 565,000.

Classrooms Already Full

Over the next five years, enrollment is expected to rise by about 14,000 students a year to 635,000, district budget director Richard Caldwell told the school board Monday.

Greenwood said the new students probably will be going to school in areas where there are no empty classroom seats.

"The issue is not just 70,000 new students. A large percentage will be in the areas where there is severe overcrowding," Greenwood said, adding that "the pressure for new classrooms will far exceed the money available" for building new schools.

Byron Kimball, director of facilities planning, estimated that there are only about 15,000 empty seats in the school district, most of them in the San Fernando Valley and West Los Angeles, far from the fastest-growing neighborhoods.

The district is planning to build several new schools in South Gate and Huntington Park and has several more on the drawing boards, but, Caldwell said, "There's no way you can build enough new schools in five years to house 70,000 students."

Many More Babies Born

Although Monday's report was called a five-year projection, the anticipated increase in enrollment is a near certainty, Caldwell said, because "these kids have already been born."

Caldwell told the board that the increase in the number of school children is not caused by students moving into the area, but instead can be explained by a jump in the number of births.

In 1973, there were about 104,000 children born in Los Angeles County. By 1983, the number was just over 140,000, an increase of one-third.

"We can generally figure that six years later, about 40% of these (recently born) kids will show up as first-graders in our district," Caldwell said.

Families with children are moving into Los Angeles, Caldwell said, "but there's also a continuing out-migration of students from our district, and over the last four years, the two have been generally in balance."

Board members had little to say Monday about the new enrollment report, except to express surprise at the magnitude of the increase.

Last week, the school board passed a resolution urging the Legislature to change the language of the state lottery initiative, which specifically forbids school districts to use the money for construction or expansion of its classrooms.

According to the initiative passed by the voters in November, the lottery money for schools, 34% of the total revenue, is to be used for "instructional purposes only."

In his budget, Gov. George Deukmejian estimated that the lottery would yield $300 million for education in its first year and that nearly $30 million of that would go to the Los Angeles school district.

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