Board Votes Not to Change Ethnic Ratios at Schools

Times Staff Writer

After heated debate, the Los Angeles Board of Education on Monday defeated a proposal to study changing the ethnic composition of 27 schools--15 of them in the San Fernando Valley.

Because of the decision, minority enrollment will not be substantially increased at the schools next fall.

The defeated plan called for a survey of the schools' parents and faculty to see whether they believed the district would be creating segregated schools if the ethnic ratios were changed to allow enrollments of 70% minority students and 30% white students. The existing ratio is 60% minority to 40% white.

District officials said they want to change the ratios because minorities account for 84% of the district's about 592,000 students. If the ratios were altered, the district could bus more minority students to the schools in the Valley and on the Westside from crowded Eastside and inner-city campuses.

Despite the proposal's defeat, the board approved studying identical changes at 46 magnet programs in the district. Five board members voted in favor of the magnet study, with West Valley representative Julie Korenstein voting no and East Valley representative Roberta Weintraub absent.

Board members voted on a series of motions that killed the study of ratio changes at the regular schools.

"I think this is a serious action, a destructive action," board president Rita Walters said. "It will not be viewed favorably within the district. It does not foster unity or brotherhood."

"I would like to know what we're going to do with the children," said Jackie Goldberg, whose Hollywood-Wilshire-area district is one of the most crowded in the city. "What are we going to do, put these children on a bus, let them ride around and not get off?"

Harbor-area representative Warren Furutani, who accidently set off a chain of events that led to defeat of the study, said district staff could retool the plan and return to the board with a new list of schools to be studied.

But Walters disagreed. "The staff are not masochists. They've heard this acrimonious discussion. It's highly unlikely that they will come right back with another proposal."

For the Valley, Monday's vote means that 13 elementary schools, one junior high school and one senior high school will not be studied for changes in the ethnic ratio. However, 21 Valley magnet programs will be studied.

Monday's sometimes vitriolic discussion started when Furutani questioned whether two regular schools in his district should be included in the study. Goldberg requested that the two schools be excluded from the list until they could be studied further, a move she said was an attempt to accommodate Furutani.

Weintraub and Korenstein then teamed up to enter a motion excluding the 15 Valley schools from the study. After that, Westside representative Alan Gershman called on Weintraub to help him get his district's schools off the study list.

When the dust settled, the board had taken five different votes on which schools would be included. The result was that it could not agree on a list of schools to be studied.

At one point, there was so much confusion over the meaning of a vote that Eastside representative Leticia Quezada voted against a proposal she had advocated moments before.

"I think we've gone past the point of rational behavior," Walters said at the end of the debate.

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