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L.A. Unified approves resolution to look at removing school enrollment boundaries

LAUSD Board of Education meeting Jan. 17, 2012.
LAUSD Board of Education meeting Jan. 17, 2012.
Tami Abdollah / KPCC

Amid some debate, LAUSD board members approved a resolution today to officially study its school enrollment boundaries and the possibility of removing or adjusting them.

Superintendent John Deasy is tasked with returning to the board in 90 days with a report on the advantages and risks of removing current enrollment boundaries from schools so as to give children more flexibility to take advantage of high-performing schools.

"It is the district's challenge to figure out, with what we have, how do we offer do we keep moving toward fairness," said board president Monica Garcia, who co-sponsored the resolution.

Garcia said the resolution was an important opportunity to take a look at how the district is currently enrolling its students, how it is providing opportunities to its students and parents, how it is informing them of these, and where it is succeeding and failing.

The resolution passed with three no votes from board members Bennett Kayser, Marguerite LaMotte, and Richard Vladovic.

Vladovic spoke strongly against the resolution, which he said would make LAUSD a "more segregated Balkanized district than we have now."

He said the school's busing program already causes problems. Parents can't engage because they can't get to the schools.

"If a school is not working, we've got to fix it," Vladovic said. "I'm not going to run — and that's what this is doing."

Kayser said the district shouldn't be looking at ways to eliminate opportunities to attend neighborhood schools.

"If there is a report, I'd like it to explain how kids in the neighborhood won't get bumped out of their own school because other students no longer have boundaries...would be coming in" Kayser said.

Another issue that would have to be hashed out: Unlike cities such as New York or San Francisco, with more compact city plans and robust transportation systems, Los Angeles' sprawling geography presents additional problems for any plan that would require greater student mobility. The district lost $38 million in transportation funding from the state during mid-year cuts triggered by lower than expected tax revenues.

LaMotte said the resolution was politically written and rebuked the superintendent for giving his opinion before the board's decision. She also admonished the other members for discussing such a measure now.

"I think we need to be honest about what we're doing," LaMotte told board members. "We're about to ask for a parcel tax, we're about to ask for bond money, yet we're talking about giving away schools. I live across the street from a school, and my child can't go there because everybody goes there? We need to be more realistic. This is not play stuff...We've got enough stuff."

LaMotte said the resolution brought up questions about whether schools that lost enrollment under a new policy with different, fewer, or no boundaries, would just become charter schools.

"We've got the budget, Sacramento...we've got to concentrate on that. I don't know who needs another conference on anything on than what to do with the budget, and how to give our students a quality, quality education."

Garcia said the resolution is not just about looking at tomorrow, but about the future of the district, which needs to examine what opportunities it is providing students and parents and whether it remains competitive amid declining enrollment numbers. Yet schools with high achievement numbers may also face overcrowding soon, she said.

"I'm interested in identifying what families want, identifying which schools within our system are the ones that are oversubscribed, how would we replicate that, which are the schools that are least sought after, and how do we deal with that," Garcia said in an interview.

The board approved a resolution last week that also aims to deal with declining enrollment and improve access to for students. That measure looks at expanding magnets and other such special programs as well as GATE testing every student despite a teacher or parent request.

Tami Abdollah is available via email and on Twitter (@LATams).