FACT SHEET ON WISEBURN SECESSION Centinela Valley Union High School District is located south of Los Angeles International Airport and serves the communities of Lennox, Hawthorne, and Lawndale, as well as portions of El Segundo and several unincorporated parts of Los Angeles County, including the communities of Del Aire and Wiseburn. Centinela’s student body of 7,339 is 96% minority and 24% English Learners, and 64% of the students qualify for the federal Free or Reduced Meals Program. Centinela has four “feeder” elementary school districts — Lennox, Lawndale, Hawthorne, and Wiseburn. Children in the community attend one of these four elementary school districts for kindergarten through grade 8, and then attend a high school within Centinela for grades 9 through 12. At its November 18-19, 2009 meeting, the State Board of Education is slated to vote on whether to authorize one of Centinela’s four feeder elementary school districts, Wiseburn, to “unify” — to secede from Centinela and form its own K-12 district. Wiseburn includes portions of the City of Hawthorne, unincorporated sections of Los Angeles County, and nearly 50% of the City of El Segundo, including the City’s property-tax rich aerospace and defense corridor. The State Board of Education initially voted to approve this proposal in 2004 but the unification was halted by a lawsuit before going to a vote of the people. With the State Board of Education poised to once again take up the secession question, Centinela students, families, teachers, and staff, as well as other taxpayers and community members, have asked us to explain the impact of the proposed Wiseburn secession on our community: • Secession would remove 45% of Centinela’s property tax base. Although the Wiseburn territory is home to less than 5% of Centinela’s student body, it includes valuable commercial real estate that houses aerospace and defense giants such as Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon, as well as manufacturing conglomerates such as Mattel. Indeed, El Segundo is second only to San Francisco in supporting the highest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the State of California. Without this tax base, Centinela will be unable to obtain sufficient facilities funding through property-tax-funded school bonds to provide adequate facilities for its students. • Secession would threaten Centinela’s solvency. Centinela has been working assiduously, with fiscal guidance from the Los Angeles County Office of Education, to bring the District back from the edge of bankruptcy during the most serious fiscal crisis facing California and its public schools in nearly a quarter of a century. Centinela projects that Wiseburn secession would result in the immediate loss of $2.5 million in Average Daily Attendance and other funding from the state and federal government. These financial losses will once again threaten Centinela’s solvency. • Secession would further divide an already segregated community. The California Department of Education acknowledged in a September 7, 2004 memorandum that unification could “pull from” Centinela “proportionally (1) more students with higher test scores[;] (2) fewer [English Learners;] (3) fewer CalWORKs students[;] and (4) fewer students in the [federal Free and Reduced Meals] Program.” Current data shows that Wiseburn secession will also result in Centinela losing a disproportionate percentage of its dwindling non-Hispanic white population, including 35% of the non-Hispanic white students at Centinela’s Hawthorne High School. Secession would also remove nearly 20% of Hawthorne High School’s Advanced Placement students, forcing a significant reduction in course offerings. • Secession could impose a nearly 200% tax increase on the remaining Centinela taxpayers. Without the 45% of Centinela’s property tax base in the Wiseburn territory, the remaining (non-Wiseburn) taxpayers could be forced to pay nearly double what they currently pay in property taxes to retire Centinela’s already existing bond debt, including the $98 million in bonds that Centinela voters recently approved in November 2008. Last time the State Board of Education attempted to eliminate this tax increase, but there is no guarantee that will happen this time, and any effort to eliminate this tax increase may not stand up in court. • Secession could force the closure of Centinela’s Lawndale High School. The loss of the 332 students from the Wiseburn territory, when coupled with the potential loss of hundreds of other Centinela students seeking permits to transfer to a Wiseburn high school, and already declining enrollment trends, could force Centinela to close its smallest “full service” high school, Lawndale High School, which was named a California “Most Distinguished School” in 2009. Lawndale High School was also one of 12 schools in the country selected for the National Center for Urban School Transformation Award, and was listed in U.S. News & World Report in 2009 as one of the top 400 high schools in the nation. For more information about the Wiseburn secession proposal or the impacts it would have on the Centinela community, please contact Aimee Dudovitz, district’s legal counsel from Strumwasser & Woocher, at (310) 576-1233.
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