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Consideration of Area-Based Voting Options - Two Public Hearings Set for April 3

 

Consideration of Area-Based Voting Options - Two Public Hearings Set for April 3

The Alta Loma School District Board of Trustees will hold two public hearings at their regular meeting on Wednesday, April 3, 6:00 p.m. at the District Support Center to discuss area-based trustee elections, as prescribed by the California Voting Rights Act of 2001.

The first public hearing will continue to address community concerns and solicit input about moving forward with the district’s switch from at-large to trustee-by-area elections in 2020.

“Our school board members have publicly expressed opposition to moving to area-based elections, but their hands are tied – at least for now,” said ALSD Superintendent James Moore.

“Unfortunately, we have no choice.”

If a decision is made to move from at-large to a by-trustee area method of election, the Alta Loma School District boundaries will be divided into five separate sections in which one trustee will represent each area. Voters will elect a trustee to represent their specific geographic area.

Board members will be elected in alternating voting cycles. For example, at least two positions will be up for election during the 2020 election and will represent designated geographic regions. Voters in the remaining areas will not vote for a school board member in 2020. The pattern will reverse in 2022, when the residents who did not vote in 2020 will vote for their respective representatives.

All current board members were elected at-large and will remain under that designation until their respective area-based election in either 2020 or 2022.

The second public hearing scheduled that evening is for the purpose of inviting public testimony about seeking a waiver from the State Board of Education for the requirement that the establishment of trustee areas and adoption of a "by trustee area" elections process be submitted to the electors as set forth in Educaiton Code 5019 and 5020 to allow for conversion to this process in time for the 2020 elections.

The consulting firm Cooperative Strategies worked with ALSD staff to draw the trustee area map options within the overall school district boundaries. The potential area maps were based on public input, the overall district population breakdown and a variety of other factors. These are currently available on the District website.

The California Voting Rights Act, which was approved in 2001 and took effect in 2003, gained little attention until recently. The legislation is intended to make it easier for all ethnic groups to be represented in public elections by dividing a city, school district or other public agency into voting districts.

Over the past several years, dozens of California cities and school districts have switched from at-large elections in which all voters within the jurisdiction choose everyone on the council or school board, to district elections in which voters are divided geographically to elect their specific area’s representative.

The widespread change in local voting practices throughout the state is largely a result of the work of Malibu attorney Kevin Shenkman, who for several years has been suing, or threatening to sue, cities, school districts and other public agencies to follow the CVRA. To date, every effort to fight CVRA lawsuits has resulted in costly defeats.

Shenkman recently threatened the Alta Loma School District with legal action if it did not make a similar change. The ALSD school board elected to initiate the process toward by-trustee-area elections, but is closely monitoring lawsuits in other jurisdictions for a possible shift in legal precedent.

Locally, the cities of Rancho Cucamonga and Upland have switched to council districts, as well as Etiwanda, Central, and Cucamonga School Districts.