Research and Reports
The huge Los Angeles Unified School District would be more segregated and not necessarily more efficiently managed if it were reorganized into several smaller districts, according to a study prepared for the California state legislature.
The many problems of the district--which encompasses 25 municipalities and 710 square miles and which enrolls about 543,000 students--are not directly attributable to its size and management structure, according to the study by the Evaluation and Training Institute, a Los Angeles research firm. The study was commissioned after legislators expressed concern over the "unmanageability" of the district.
Several options--including the transfer of sections of the Los Angeles Unified district to contiguous districts and the creation of more subdistricts--were explored by the consultants and found to have more drawbacks than the current administrative structure.
One of the district's major problems, the report notes, is not inefficiency, but inequity. Schools in predominantly white areas of the district are underused and spend more money per pupil than the districtwide average, while schools in many black and Hispanic neighborhoods are overcrowded and in poor condition.
These conditions would most likely be exacerbated by breaking up the district, the nation's second largest, according to the report.
The district has, the report notes, been "scrupulously fair" when assigning teachers, so that class sizes are not appreciably different from one school to the next. The report does recommend that the legislature take certain steps to improve efficiency. Among them:
Provide incentives for closing underused schools or penalties for not doing so.
Provide enough construction money to relieve overcrowding.
Amend laws governing school employees so that performance may be given greater weight when deciding which employees to keep on the staff.
Modify state laws so that parents can continue to work as aides in their children's schools without having to pass minimum-competency tests for which they are ill-prepared. Foreign-speaking parents often "act as liaisons" for students who do not speak English and "greatly facilitate the educational process."
Allow children to enroll in a school near their parents' jobs instead of the school closest to the home, if the family so chooses.