The proposal to break up the Los Angeles Unified School District, which passed the state Senate but was expected to face withering opposition in the Assembly, gained momentum Tuesday when the chairwoman of a key Assembly committee announced that she no longer opposes it.
Assemblywoman Delaine Eastin (D-Fremont), who voted two months ago against dismantling the system, said she favors an overhaul of the district "that might include breaking it up" if the bill is amended to prevent it from creating districts with sharp differences in wealth. Eastin is chairwoman of the Education Committee, the bill's first stop in the Assembly.
Steve Glazer, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Van Nuys), who wrote the breakup bill, described the softening of Eastin's position "as a positive sign." But he cautioned that Roberti has not taken a stand on changes suggested by Eastin.
Roberti's measure was expected to face a difficult fight when it came up today in Eastin's committee. But on Tuesday, Eastin unexpectedly delayed action on the measure for a week, saying that she wants to find a compromise that would still allow the controversial issue to be placed on the November, 1994, ballot.
Eastin, a potential candidate for state superintendent of public instruction, said her Assembly colleagues are concerned that the breakup will create rich "uptown districts in the San Fernando Valley" while others would be impoverished.
Eastin said her goals are to restructure the 640,000-student district so that financial resources are spread throughout the new districts, and "to make sure there aren't a few Cadillac schools and the rest are jalopies."
Last week, Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) repeated his strong objections to the breakup measure. Brown also said he doubted that Roberti could muster enough votes to pass it out of Eastin's committee.
But Brown--who is politically allied with the powerful California Teachers Assn., which along with the school district opposes the bill--also emphasized that the measure would receive a fair hearing.
Roberti's measure, fueled by criticism of the school system by Valley parents, would establish a commission of more than two dozen members to devise a plan to split the district into at least seven smaller ones.
Eastin said Roberti's approach is more comprehensive than that of a bill by Assemblywoman Paula Boland (R-Granada Hills) that was rejected in April by the Assembly Education Committee. At the time, Eastin joined six other Democrats in voting against the measure.
In the Los Angeles City Council, meanwhile, supporters of the breakup bill, led by Councilman Hal Bernson, failed to get the council to go on record Tuesday as supporting the proposal.
Bernson needed 10 of 15 votes to pass the motion on an emergency basis but could only muster eight.