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first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Measure Y must be the most aptly named proposition to ever appear on a ballot. The measure that will come before voters Nov. 8 does cause a person to wonder, “Why?” As in, why does the Los Angeles Unified School District need $4 billion more to expand its already humongous school-building extravaganza, even when there are fewer and fewer students enrolled each year? Or as in, why should I encourage this kind of behavior when one in every 20 students is turning away from traditional schools and choosing a charter school instead? Hmmmm. Measure Y, indeed. For those keeping track, this $3.985 billion bond measure is No. 4 since voters passed Proposition BB in 1997 for much-needed school repairs, thus initiating a $14-billion new-school spree. It would add 25 additional elementary schools to the list of 160 schools set to be constructed by 2012, plus give money to other things like new school buses and repairs and even a scrap or two to charter schools. Don’t fooled by the “bond” label. You will pay for it, one way or another. Property owners get hit through their tax bills; renters when their landlords pass on the bite. Not that this has stopped voters from generously approving the earlier three bonds. And those were none too soon. LAUSD had deferred construction and repairs so long that classrooms were literally falling down on top of students and classes were so crowded that many schools were forced to go on year-round schedules. But the fortunes of the nation’s second-largest school district could well be shifting, and school officials appear to be in denial. According to LAUSD’s own figures, the district has been slowly but steadily losing students over the past three years. Since the 2002-03 school year, 4,471 students have dropped from the rolls and not been replaced in traditional grade schools. When the district takes its first count for the school year next month, that figure is expected to drop an additional 4,304, according to officials. Even more dramatic is what’s going on at elementary schools. During the past three years, the ranks of elementary kids have shrunk by more than 14,000. That’s like the entire population of the city of Malibu, plus a few hundred of their domestic workers. Where are these kids going? They are growing up, and there are fewer babies to replace them. LAUSD plots its future attendance on live births in the county, along with other factors. Los Angeles County has been experiencing a bit of a baby bust, with hundreds fewer babies being born each year, a trend that is expected to continue through the end of the decade. It’s not a surprise if you observe what’s happening in the city’s urban core. Neighborhoods once densely inhabited by immigrant families are being transformed by an influx of upper-income hipsters with few if any babies. Meanwhile, Los Angeles housing prices are driving out those most likely to have school-age kids – young families. And even immigrant families are having fewer babies. Researchers at the Public Policy Institute of California reported in 2002 that after the first generation, immigrant families have successively smaller families. All of this seems to mean there will be a lot fewer students to enjoy all these new schools. LAUSD has noted this change in demographics, said Glenn Gritzner, special assistant to LAUSD Superintendent Roy Romer. But it’s not alarming enough to alter the school building boom, he said. If enrollment continues to drop at the same level and the new schools are built through 2012, there will still be 200,000 students in portable bungalow classrooms and still plenty of overcrowded schools, Gritzner said. Fair enough. But one thing that the district has not been taking into account, he conceded, is the growth of charter schools. In California, charter schools now enroll about 3 percent of the state’s public school students – or about 200,000 students this school year. About 35,000 of those are within LAUSD territory. This fall, 20 new charter schools opened in California for a total of 88. By 2014, the California Charter Schools Association predicts that 10 percent of public school students will have defected to charter schools, perhaps even at a higher rate in Los Angeles. Already, demand far exceeds supply. “There are many charter schools in the state – particularly in urban areas, particularly L.A. Unified – that have waiting lists triple the seats that they have available,” said Gary Larson, spokesman for the California Charter Schools Association. In addition, the flexibility and small size of charter schools give them an advantage over the super-size traditional schools that take LAUSD years to build. There’s no guarantee that charters will ever draw significant numbers away from LAUSD, and Angelenos could start cranking up baby production any day. But those possibilities aren’t quite enough to take the “Why?” out of Measure Y. Mariel Garza [email protected]last_img read more

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