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Oxnard Busing Halt Argued in Public Forum

Times Staff Writer

School District officials debated late Wednesday a plan to end school busing to maintain classroom integration as ordered nearly 18 years ago by a U.S. District Court judge.

School board members heard comments from the audience until 11 p.m., then adjourned to vote on the proposal. The result was not expected until this morning.

More than 250 demonstrators protested the school board’s proposal at the Oxnard Civic Auditorium, where the issue was debated from the floor and among district board members in both English and Spanish for hours.

Oxnard is one of five California cities ordered by federal authorities in the last two decades to integrate their schools. School districts in Pasadena and Los Angeles, as well as in this predominantly Latino city of 120,000, have won release from their court orders. Stockton and San Francisco remain under orders to continue busing.

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The Assn. of Mexican-American Educators of Ventura County has led the opposition to ending busing, arguing that a return to neighborhood schools would mark a return to segregation for students in the Colonia, Oxnard’s barrio. The critics pointed out that a school could be up to 90% Latino and still comply with new integration standards proposed by the board to replace the court order.

Critics have labeled the board’s plan as ineffective, especially the intent to use magnet schools in minority neighborhoods as a lure for Anglo students. District surveys have found little support for such measures among Anglo parents.

Two-thirds of the district’s 9,500 students are now bused to meet the terms of the 1971 court order. Students’ elementary school years are split between schools in their own neighborhoods and schools across the city with a different racial mix.

Under the new plan fashioned by the local board since the court order was lifted in 1987, the number of students bused would be cut in half over the next 11 years and the paired-schools concept would be eliminated.

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The district, which developed its plan over an 18-month period , has said it will save money and improve education for students who will be moved to traditional K-6 schools.

District officials also point out that since the order, the city’s demographics have changed so that Latinos, who now represent 70% of the district’s population, no longer are a minority.

But the proposal has divided parents. Those from the more affluent and more Anglo northern and western neighborhoods generally offer support; parents from the city’s poorer and predominantly Latino east side usually oppose the plan.


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