The five members Santa Barbara Unified School District the board was on track to move to district elections and add two board members by November 2022, but a new problem has emerged.
The council is set to reduce the card proposals from five to three during a virtual meeting on Tuesday evening. The item starts around 7 p.m.
In 2018, the board voted to go to district elections under threat of prosecution under the California Voting Rights Act.
According to California Department of EducationSanta Barbara Unified is approximately 60% Latino and 33% white.
District elections are designed to allow Latinx neighborhoods to elect a representative who represents their local schools and neighborhood, and therefore increase Latinx representation on the council.
The board currently has two Mexican-American women serving on the board.
“District elections will benefit students and families by providing local representatives for every part of the community,” said Lanny Ebenstein, economist, former school board member and district election activist. “Candidates will be more likely to run for a school board if the electoral district in which they will be elected is smaller. District elections result in schools that are closer to the community.”
The school district‘s consultant, Cooperative Strategies, has held meetings dating back to last summer to review the proposed maps.
However, District Legal Counsel Craig Price released a memo Jan. 20 outlining a new hiccup in the district’s election plan.
“The seven-trustee option would divide the district into smaller-sized trustee zones and potentially make it easier and less costly for individuals, especially low-income groups, to seek boardship,” Price said. . “In such a scenario, which has been compared to the seven districts of the Santa Barbara City Council, there would be a tighter ward-like affiliation between trustees and voters, compared to larger five-trustee areas.”
But Price added that creating a larger district could narrow electoral ranks too much. Under Scenario 6, the Seven Member District, the total population figures in Trust Area Two would be 62.4% Hispanic/Latino, and only 42.8% would be the voting age citizen population. .
In other words, the current proposed map of seven would not create a majority-minority district.
Additionally, in the seven administrator configuration, there would be three administration areas with no district elementary sites and no district elementary population.
In the five-administrator plan, every administration area except one includes both elementary and secondary schools. Guardianship area number five includes secondary schools but no district elementary schools or any geographic area containing a district elementary population.
“The seven-trustee zone scenario would thus establish a configuration in which three trustees would be selected solely by secondary residents and would have no voter participation in the district’s elementary schools,” Price wrote. “This would mean that board decision-making affecting the allocation of resources between elementary and secondary schools and populations would have three decision-makers who do not represent the elementary portion of the district.”
Another problem with the district’s bond program is the seven trustees card.
Ongoing projects in the district are separated into primary and secondary funding sources. When the bonds were established in 2016, Price wrote, it was necessary to create a separate fiscal entity, called an “educational facility improvement district, to cover the elementary area.
In this area, residents pay for elementary and secondary school capital improvements, through the $58 million Bond Measure J. Secondary school residents only are included in Measure I of $135 million, which only taxes residents for secondary infrastructure.
“Under the seven-trustee zone configuration, three of the seven trustees would be responsible for overseeing elemental capital expenditures despite not representing any part of the district’s elemental population,” Price wrote. “In contrast, under the five admin zone, only one admin would be configured this way.”
“I strongly support a map with seven districts,” Ebenstein said. “Only a map with seven districts complies with California voting rights law. Several academic studies indicate that district elections lead to better performance by Latino students. By leading to school boards that are more representative of the communities for which they take decisions, the efficiency of decisions increases.”
The council is due to approve one of the trusteeship proposals on Feb. 8.
The Santa Barbara County Committee on School District Organization must also approve the maps and will address the issue Feb. 14 and 28.
Each time a board grows from five to seven members, Price wrote, the two new members are appointed by the current board. The terms of the two new directors would expire in December 2023 and December 2025.
If the public does not agree with the county committee’s final map of the district, they can put the matter to the voters by collecting enough signatures on the petitions.