Monday, June 23, 2008

Another Rare Case Of Actual Journalism In LA Times Metro Section!

Once again, Evelyn Larrubia manages to break the increasing trend towards factually challenged propaganda pieces masquerading as news article within the LA Times Metro section. Her cause is also helped when she has an editor who writes brilliant headlines that actually tell you what the story is about as opposed to headlines that either contradict the story - or are so biased as to be fictional.

Below is the opening of her story; as you will see, the headline, the sub-headline and the story all allow both sides to make their best points - and then allows the reader to make an intelligent, informed decision on who is right.

(And, btw - the LAUSD is ignoring the wishes of the voters with their present actions and - as usual - refuses to allow any true public debate on this very complicated issue in which both sides have valid points)

L.A. Unified will have more seats, but fewer students to fill them

Despite falling enrollment, the district will keep building schools as a way to eliminate year-round calendars, forced busing and portable classrooms. Critics say it's overbuilding.

By Evelyn Larrubia, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
June 23, 2008

San Fernando Middle School is expecting 1,600 students this fall, but officials estimate that the north Valley campus could handle 2,300. Lake Primary Center in Echo Park is expecting 160 but has room for 260. And Lincoln High School in Lincoln Heights is anticipating about 2,700 students; it has space for about 3,000.

What do Los Angeles Unified School District officials plan to do with the empty space? Add to it.

The district plans to build campuses that will take hundreds of students from those schools, further reducing their enrollment. By the time the building program is completed in 2012, there will be tens of thousands of empty seats at dozens of once-crowded schools, a Times analysis shows.

The district will use boundary changes, smaller class sizes and other methods to even out enrollment and reduce the surplus. A decade ago, the nation's second-largest school system was bursting at the seams, with campuses so crowded that students sometimes had no desks. And the number of students was predicted to keep growing. The dire situation persuaded local voters to approve four bonds, which launched a $20-billion building and modernization program.

But now, with 180 new schools and additions completed and 79 more on the drawing board, things have changed dramatically.

Economic and demographic changes have resolved some of the space crunch that the construction program was created to fix.

Over the last decade, fewer people moved to Southern California, large numbers of school-aged children grew up, and the birth rate among Latinos declined. Some students left traditional public schools to enroll in publicly financed charters, experts and officials said. Rising housing prices changed the face of some neighborhoods in the urban core, bringing singles and childless couples into what were once communities of large, poor immigrant families.

As a result, L.A. Unified has lost 57,000 students, nearly 8% of its total enrollment.

"When we wrote the ballot arguments against the last bond, we said they should wait. There were still billions of dollars in the pipeline, and their own figures showed declining enrollment," said Kris Vosburgh, executive director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. "We were speculating that these schools were eventually going to be housing the homeless because we're running out of students."

With the district paying $600 a square foot for construction costs, the extra schools add up to real money.

Facing a budget shortfall, the school board last year scrapped 19 projects and reduced the size of others, citing demographic changes, but officials said every remaining school is necessary.

L.A. Unified plans to add space for roughly 70,000 students at currently mandated class sizes by 2012. But its own projections show that would produce space for 25,000 more students than needed to take schools off year-round schedules and eliminate forced busing, the goals of the school building program.

The district is continuing with plans to build some schools in areas of dwindling population and others that are too large, in some cases because the projects are too far along. Also, the district, running up against state deadlines for matching funds, is primed to avoid delays.

"If we're locked and loaded, let's go," said Edwin Van Ginkel, a high-ranking consultant for the district's building program. "You don't save a whole lot of money in redesign. You're just taking a few classrooms out."

In addition, officials said, the extra space will allow the district to stop crowding playgrounds with portable classroom trailers, leave a large majority of classrooms empty for one period to allow teachers to plan there and, potentially, shrink class sizes at all schools. The extra space will also allow the district to take advantage of a seven-year state grant to make classes at select campuses smaller still. These measures were not envisioned when voters were asked to approve the bonds.

Rena Perez, the district's head demographer, said an increase in births in the region is expected to cause enrollment to begin rising in six years.

"If we build to our absolute need, then we wouldn't have any margin if and when our enrollment starts to grow again," she said.

The rest of the story is at the above link....

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