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Study of Plan to Break Up L.A. School District OKd : Schools: State board approves $250,000 for fact-finding. An advocate of the proposal calls it ‘a step in the right direction.’

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The State Board of Education on Friday approved spending $250,000 to study the feasibility of breaking up the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The legislation that authorizes the expenditure does not refer to the Los Angeles district by name, but only to the reorganizing of “very small and very large” districts. But the 708-square-mile, 610,000-student district--the second-largest in the nation--is thought to be the only one in the state that would qualify as “very large.”

Any actual plan to dismantle the district would require voter approval.

Assemblywoman Marian W. La Follette (R-Northridge), author of the measure, has for years been an outspoken critic of the Los Angeles school district.

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As a concession to colleagues, La Follette, who in past years has sought unsuccessfully to break up the district via the Legislature, requested this week that the state board drop any mention of Los Angeles from the measure.

The change was made in response to members of two legislative subcommittees who this week expressed reservations about appropriating money for a single school district.

“This is a step in the right direction,” La Follette said of the state board’s decision.

Earlier this week, a task force created by La Follette recommended that the Los Angeles district be divided into at least eight, and perhaps as many as 49, school districts. La Follette said she believes dividing Los Angeles into smaller districts would improve poor academic performance and solve other ills, such as campus crime.

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La Follette said the $250,000 approved by the state board is needed to pay for consultants who will draw up new district boundaries and seek answers to such thorny issues as how to divide up the students, property and debts of the Los Angeles district.

Once such a plan is created, the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization and the State Board of Education can call for a districtwide vote on the issue.

Los Angeles school district officials and teachers union leaders oppose La Follette’s efforts, saying that reducing the size of the district will do little to improve student performance or reduce the number of dropouts.

Attorneys for the school district also say that efforts to divide up the district would likely be challenged on grounds that such plans would create more segregated school districts.

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Times staff writer William Trombley contributed to this story.


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