by Richard Moon, Pixie Boyden, and Dr. Victor Gonzales
The stability and performance of our schools has a vitally important effect on all of us, from the educational options for our children, to the housing prices of those without children. Most importantly, it is the 19,000 students who attend PUSD schools who will shape the future of our communities. Those who serve on the seven-member school board have an important responsibility, not just to the children and parents who attend the public schools, but to every person in all of the communities covered by the PUSD.
Nothing about the current At-Large system forces consensus-building between interests, nor does it compel Board members to cultivate any sort of broad-based support. With Measure A, residents in one area, with concerns specific to that area as well as concerns relevant to the district as a whole, will no longer be in direct competition with every other area of the district for every single seat.
Experience in other cities and school boards using this approach reveals that elected officials are closer to the voters, and more accountable because of it. Board members no longer aim for the votes of the same set of voters, allowing collaboration, consensus-building, and a dynamic combination of interests that is built in to the very fabric of representational democracy.
Under our current At-Large system, the entire district votes for every seat, but candidates run for only one specific seat, with absolutely nothing compelling them, in any way, to give any amount of concern to the communities surrounding those schools, or to communities without open school campuses.
Under the sub-district election system that would be put in place by a Yes vote on Measure A, the elected school board members would still have the same impetus to think about the entire district. They would still be required by state law to be responsible for, and a representative of, every school in the district. But they would also, finally, have a reason to pay any attention at all to the concerns and issues affecting the various communities and groups that, all together, comprise the PUSD. Under a sub-district election system all 7 board members have the exact same reasons and compulsions to listen to everyone who has any stake in the entire PUSD as they do now, as well as a new reason to listen to concerns that had no voice before.
Measure A will also save the school district money, on every single election. The average cost of the Primary elections will drop by half, while each run-off election will cost the district 1/7th as much as they do currently. And while, yes, a roughly $200,000 to $300,000 savings every two years is not a huge portion of an annual $180,000,000 budget, in these days of massive cuts to state education funding and repeated neighborhood school closures, no amount of money that can be sent back to the classrooms, where it is most needed, can realistically be called negligible.
Across the state, community activists, civil rights advocates, and individual citizens have worked together to reduce the possibility of any community of interest, whether economic, social, ethnic, racial, or political, from having their voices diluted by At-Large school board election systems. After unanimous Yes votes by the current PUSD Board, the Pasadena City Council, the Sierra Madre City Council, and the Altadena Town Council, our own civic and community leaders and advocates – from each of the neighborhoods, economic statuses, political outlooks, racial, cultural, ethnic, and municipalities within the boundaries of the PUSD – have come together behind this approach, and in support of Measure A.
Measure A has been endorsed by Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, Untied Teachers of Pasadena, NAACP, Pasadena Latino Coalition, Armenian Community Coalition, The Pasadena Sun, and Invest In Pasadena Kids, a local public education advocacy group.
Do you want more Democracy, more Efficiency, and more Local Access and Accountability in the Pasadena Unified School District? Then vote YES on Measure A.