Power Struggle for Compton, Calif., Schools Persists

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Officials in Compton, Calif., have asked a federal court to give the city control over the 30,000-student local school system, which has been run by the California education department since 1993.

Mayor Omar Bradley and City Council members Fred Cressel and Gladys Russell filed a lawsuit on the matter Oct. 28 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. The suit seeks a memorandum of understanding with the state to give the council control over the schools within 18 months of a ruling.

The plaintiffs argue that since California took over the nearly bankrupt district, the state has failed to provide Compton students with a "constitutionally adequate education."

"We've been willing to work with anyone, including the state department of education, to restore quality education and local control to our schools," Mr. Bradley said in a prepared statement."But enough is enough."

Lack of Confidence

The Compton schools have been at the center of an emotional power struggle since the state took over the fiscally and academically ailing district after it ran out of money to pay its bills.

Last year, the local school board lost a state court challenge that sought to end the state's intervention in the district. The American Civil Liberties Union also dropped a lawsuit last year when the state agreed to repair school facilities and require Compton teachers to pass basic-skills tests within two years of being hired. ("Signs of Progress Slowly Emerge After Takeover in Compton, Calif.," Jan. 21, 1998.)

But the new suit is the first time the city has directly tried to gain control of the system, which is located just south of Los Angeles.

The City Council also recently adopted a resolution opposing a $107 million local bond measure for schools that was on last week's ballot. The council cited a lack of confidence in how the state would administer the bond proceeds, as well as a reluctance to raise local taxes. With absentee ballots still being counted late last week, the bond was 88 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed.

State schools Superintendent Delaine Eastin, a defendant in the suit, said she was disappointed by the filing. "The issue of the state's authority to oversee the school district has been tried already in state courts, with the state prevailing," she said in a written statement.

Randolph E. Ward, the state-appointed administrator of the Compton schools, called the suit "one more obstacle to progress" at a time when student performance is beginning to improve.

Vol. 18, Issue 11, Page 3

Published in Print: November 11, 1998, as Power Struggle for Compton, Calif., Schools Persists
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