After Five Years, State Board Turns Down Lakewood District

The State Board of Education recently voted unanimously to deny a proposal to form a separate Lakewood school district from parts of four other local districts: ABC, Bellflower, Long Beach and Paramount. The action climaxed a five-year effort by proponents to persuade school districts, independent analysts, a county committee and the State Board that the proposal met state criteria. A California Department of Education analysis found the proposal to be deficient in four key areas. It would have resulted in disruption of educational programs, inequitable division of property, a significant increase in school housing costs and a negative impact on the fiscal status of school districts. All seven members attending the regular monthly meeting of the state school board voted against the proposal. In January they heard testimony from proponents and opponents of the new district. "We believe the state's decision was fair," said Mary Stanton, president of the Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education. "This proposal had to stand or fall on its merits. "We will continue to focus on providing better education," she said. "We invite anyone with a desire to improve education for students to assist their local schools. With the help of thousands of parents and residents, our schools are making academic gains. We're determined to do even more. "We are pleased that more parents are choosing our schools," said Stanton. "Enrollment of Lakewood residents has increased more than twice as rapidly as the overall enrollment increase in our district. Hundreds of Lakewood students previously attending private or parochial schools now attend our schools." Existing school districts were concerned about the proposal's detrimental impact on thousands of students currently attending schools in the Lakewood area. Their dislocation to Bellflower, ABC, Paramount and Long Beach would have caused severe overcrowding in surrounding schools. For example, the proposed district would have resulted in student density of only 50 students per acre in the Lakewood area and 118 students per acre in the Long Beach Unified School District, violating the equal protection clause of the Constitution and inviting lawsuits. The proposed Lakewood school district also encompassed territory and schools outside the City of Lakewood. It would have taken a large residential section near Long Beach City College and two high achieving schools outside Lakewood. The proposal was opposed by 22 school board members representing 150,000 students, plus city council members and five mayors who live in and represent the 651,000 residents of Bellflower, Cerritos, Hawaiian Gardens, Paramount and Long Beach.