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Blog: Why Measure A is a Good Move

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.

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.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Chris Koerber May 31, 2012 at 06:17 PM
I have been against Measure A from the get-go. Its' a terrible idea in many ways. The Pasadena Star-News agrees in today's editorial: Our View: No on Measure A for the PUSD It can be found at http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/ci_20744625/our-view-no-measure-pusd. They say: "...Measure A's passage could create problems of its own. Now, if a constituent wants a board member's ear, he's got it - as a voter. If elected by neighborhood, a trustee from Sierra Madre would not be answerable to a resident of San Rafael - or Altadena, or anywhere else. The Pasadena schools don't need to add Balkanization to their problems. They need to focus on solutions. We strongly urge a "no" vote on Measure A."
Richard May 31, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Meanwhile, the Pasadena Sun agrees with the Yes side. And, frankly, the Star-News' statement that a trustee from Sierra Madre would not be answerable to a resident of San Rafael is, as I've said in numerous other places, just plain false. Every member of the school board is responsible, and required to be responsive to, the entire school district. That doesn't change whichever way the board is elected. The whole argument is based on a fallacy of trustees somehow being allowed to ignore state law because... well, there's never much of a reason for it, actually. And it's awesome that you've been against Measure A from the get-go. I was against the idea that eventually became Measure A from the get-go, too. And then I actually did the research about the issue, and now I'm firmly for it. Go figure.
Chris Koerber May 31, 2012 at 07:54 PM
It is standard protocol that an elected official represents the people in his/her district. If one calls a Congressional office, the first question one is asked; "Do you live in the district?". If one doesn't, one's concern is routed to his/her district representative. The argument against Measure A is simple math. Currently, you have 7 elected Board members who represent you. Under Measure A, you have one representative (not until 2015, in some areas) to represent you. 7>1. IMO, Measure A will be defeated. The voters to whom I've spoken say it makes no sense. I'll save further discussion for post-election. Bye.
Richard May 31, 2012 at 11:21 PM
But that standard protocol is, once again, ignoring the rather fundamental and written-into-state-law differences between a Congressional Office and a Board of Education. By law, every member of a Board of Education represents the entire district, and is responsible for the entire district. The argument For Measure A is also simple math, and it's rather more compelling: Currently, you have 7 elected Board members who represent the entire district. Under Measure A, you have 7 elected Board members who represent the entire district, and one Board member who is from your area and represents you and your neighbors, in particular. (7+1) > 7 But, then again, I'm wary of any argument that trots out "simple math" on this issue, and that's entirely due to Scott Phelps' use of simple, and completely incompetent and misleading, math in his condemnation. If the people who you've talked to say "it makes no sense", then they're not paying attention, and you should probably direct them to better sources of information. Not so they'd vote "yes" necessarily, because I totally understand processing the issue and coming to a different conclusion. Saying "I disagree with this" is just rationality that went in a different direction than mine, and there's nothing wrong with that. Saying "this makes no sense" is little more than an admission of ignorance, and that's unfortunate.
Hair Dreier June 01, 2012 at 03:19 AM
Richard, why are you hanging around Sierra Madre? Shouldn't you be doing something about the disastrous PUSD situation in Altadena? Here we take care of our own. We don't really need you coming over here to tell us how to run our affairs, especially when you consider the massive drop out rate in Altadena. No on Measure A. No two years in the back of the bus for Sierra Madre.
Richard June 01, 2012 at 08:33 AM
I go to Sierra Madre because A) I happen to like Sierra Madre, especially that one pizza place, B) it was important to get as many sources of input as possible in doing the job I volunteered to do, and that included the voices of people who believe they're part of a greater whole as well as those that think in insular, segregated terms, and C) this piece is actually posted on Altadena Patch, and just cross-posted to Sierra Madre patch. Which is to say, I *am* doing something about the PUSD situation in Altadena, and it's the same thing I'm doing about the PUSD situation in Sierra Madre. I'm getting involved, and have helped craft a measure that will, while not solve *all* problems, is at the very least a step on the path that will ultimately be of very great benefit to the whole PUSD, and Altadena and Sierra Madre in particular. Why you think the preferable option is to keep Sierra Madre at the back of the bus *permanently* is a mystery to me.
Hair Dreier June 01, 2012 at 12:02 PM
Taking away Sierra Madre's rights to a seat on the Board of Education during the time when the money from Measure TT is to be divvied up is not going to be of much help here, Richard. And that is exactly what Measure A will do. Please stick to the concerns of your own community. Obviously you have little real appreciation of what is important here. We have enough trouble with carpetbaggers without adding you to the list.
Tony Brandenburg June 01, 2012 at 01:50 PM
ok richard, no rep for us, then no pizza for you.
Richard June 01, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Except that absolutely nothing is being taken away from Sierra Madre, at all. The right to have a regionally-based representative is being *given* to Sierra Madre by Measure A. Voting No on Measure A does not preserve *any* rights for Sierra Madre, it does not preserve *any* particular pull by Sierra Madre on the board, it does not get Sierra Madre any more Measure TT money. Voting no on Measure A hurts Sierra Madre more than a Yes vote ever could, by denying Sierra Madre any chance at having a board member that has any real appreciation of what is important to Sierra Madre. Further, this notion that all of the Measure TT money is going to be divvied up in the next two years is, itself, based on some sort of weird fallacy, since most of the Measure TT money has already been divvied up, and the divvying is overseen and audited by a citizen's committee that won't be changed by however the board is elected. And if you believe the SM Tattler, then all of the corruption of the Board in divvying up Measure TT money has already long-since happened. So, basically, you guys are proposing keeping Sierra Madre from ever having a representative because you are really mad at the current PUSD board, which doesn't have a Sierra Madre rep. Brilliant.
Richard June 01, 2012 at 03:39 PM
What you seem to fail to understand, at all, "whatever funny Dreier-based pun name I can come up with next", is that everyone in the PUSD is in the same community. We're all in the boat, and you refusing to help fix the holes in the hull doesn't do a damn thing keep your corner of it afloat.
Karmann Ghia June 02, 2012 at 06:55 AM
Pedro Seco and the Usual Suspects want to keep their control of the Board. Pretty disgusting how they manipulate the uninformed and stretch the boundaries of truth. If Seco and the Suspects truly wanted to be in compliance with The Voters Rights Act.... the Political professor would have helped long ago. Instead, we have the appearance that they want to make things right with sudo representation. The only time I've EVER seen Roberta Martinez speak up for Latino children..... NEVER. A couple times she walked up to the mic and I thought finally!!... Only to then see her self promoting some parade that she appears as the co-grand marshall every year. Gimme a break Seco and Company. You guys are done. You've caused enough damage. Too many kids have failed under your orchestration and YOU NOW WANT TO PUSH Boundaries convenient for your continued control?!!

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