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Measure To Break Up L.A. District Dies in Assembly Committee

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A plan to break up the Los Angeles Unified School District has died in the California legislature.

The measure was rejected last month after supporters could win only four of the nine votes needed to move the bill out of the Assembly education committee.

The bill, sponsored by David A. Roberti, the Senate President pro tem, would have created a commission to divide the nation's second-largest school district into at least seven smaller units.

The bill passed the Senate in June, but was strongly opposed by Assembly leaders. (See Education Week, June 23, 1993.)

Backers of the division plan vowed to continue to fight for the breakup, which they said would make the Los Angeles schools more efficient and more open to parent and community involvement.

A group of parents who favor the breakup is scheduled to meet this week to consider the next step. Assemblywoman Paula L. Boland, a Republican who is organizing the meeting, said she will push for a statewide ballot measure to provide for a division.

"We have no intention to drop this thing,'' Senator Roberti, a Democrat, said after the Assembly committee's 6-to-4 vote. "We intend to carry on the battle for the public schools.''

A statewide initiative would require signatures from 385,000 registered voters to win a place on the ballot. Other strategies would be to develop a compromise measure to put before the legislature or to push for a local ballot measure, which would require 325,000 signatures from voters in Los Angeles County.

District Officials Opposed

Los Angeles school officials have strongly opposed Mr. Roberti's bill. They predicted that alternative plans by backers of the district split are likely to lose momentum following the recent setback.

Any efforts at a legislative compromise, moreover, are likely to face uphill going in the Assembly, where leaders have made clear they are unimpressed by the reasons offered so far for a breakup. Critics have argued that the plans to divide the district include no assurances that such a tactic will improve schooling or ease problems within the 640,000-student district.

"I want to hear a plan for school improvement,'' said Delaine Eastin, the chairwoman of the Assembly education panel. "I'm not just for breaking up for the sake of breaking up.''

"I truly understand the need to fix the problem,'' added Assemblywoman Valerie Brown. "I'm just not sure we're not making more of a problem.''

The battle over the future of the Los Angeles district comes at a time when many education leaders have thrown their support behind a reform plan presented by the Los Angeles Educational Alliance for Restructuring Now, a broad-based coalition of education, civic, and business groups. (See Education Week, June 9, 1993.)

The LEARN plan, which focuses on improving local schools through decentralization, is currently being put into place in 36 schools. But it faces opposition from a major faction of the United Teachers-Los Angeles.

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