View Mobile Site

Next up: PC school board

Redistricting to get rid of at-large trustees

Text Size: Small Large Medium
POSTED September 18, 2013 10:22 p.m.

Get ready for a new, improved, and politically correct Manteca Unified School District.

Those are the goals of a move that is now in motion at the district level. That move is to change the map showing the district areas that are being represented by a Board of Education trustee.

Right now, the school district has five trustee areas. Each area is represented by one trustee, with the exception of densely populated Area 5 which is represented by three of the seven board members – board president Don Scholl, trustees Evelyn Moore and Deborah Romero.

Under the proposed redistricting map, there will be not five but seven areas with each area represented by just one trustee. That’s in keeping with the California Voting Rights Act signed into law on July 9, 2002 by then Governor Gray Davis.

So, concurrent with the map-change proposal is to have trustees voted only by the residents of the area they represent instead of at-large as is being done now, which means all registered voters in the school district can cast their ballots for a candidate in the other represented areas.

What is behind this redistricting process?

For one thing, “we are required to look at our map every 10 years,” said Superintendent Jason Messer.

The last U.S. Census was completed in 2010, “so we have to look at our district; that has to happen,” he said.

And that has brought about the proposal to change the district’s trustee map.

But what this all boils down to is dollars and cents. Like many school districts – and other agencies all over, for that matter, be it a hospital or irrigation board – the redistricting move aims to protect MUSD from being sued by advocacy and political groups.

The California Voting Rights Act of 2001, in a nutshell, will make it easier for minority groups to prove that their votes are being “diluted” in at-large elections, and to sue local governments and agencies such as school board like MUSD.

Manteca Unified is not exactly a trailblazer in going after redistricting, Messer said. There are other places where school districts are already voting by area. Stockton Unified School District is one of them. Lincoln Unified in Stockton is also moving into voting by district area.

“So we’re not on the forefront,” but not exactly being the last one to do so either, Messer said.

Many places like Stanislaus County and Modesto have already felt the fiscal sting after being sued for a lot of money at a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars, he pointed out. It’s money that could be used for students instead of having it spent on attorneys and political groups.

 “That’s what pushing (redistricting) the trend – keeping the district financially secure and the money going to the kids and not to political debates and attorneys,” Messer said.

The challenge, though, for Manteca is whether redistricting is a move that the trustees would like to see in place. They also have to make a decision whether to move to voting by area or at-large. This has been discussed at a special board meeting, the superintendent said.

The other step that has to be cleared in the redistricting process is for MUSD to seek a waiver from the State of California that will eliminate the need to have the electors in the school district vote on whether trustees should be elected by area and not at-large. That may take place sometime in January.

But right now, the MUSD and San Joaquin County of Education boards have to go through the required public hearing process to gather input from the public and as well as information pertinent to the California Voting Rights Act.

Get ready for a new, improved, and politically correct Manteca Unified School District.

Those are the goals of a move that is now in motion at the district level. That move is to change the map showing the district areas that are being represented by a Board of Education trustee.

Right now, the school district has five trustee areas. Each area is represented by one trustee, with the exception of densely populated Area 5 which is represented by three of the seven board members – board president Don Scholl, trustees Evelyn Moore and Deborah Romero.

Under the proposed redistricting map, there will be not five but seven areas with each area represented by just one trustee. That’s in keeping with the California Voting Rights Act signed into law on July 9, 2002 by then Governor Gray Davis.

So, concurrent with the map-change proposal is to have trustees voted only by the residents of the area they represent instead of at-large as is being done now, which means all registered voters in the school district can cast their ballots for a candidate in the other represented areas.

What is behind this redistricting process?

For one thing, “we are required to look at our map every 10 years,” said Superintendent Jason Messer.

The last U.S. Census was completed in 2010, “so we have to look at our district; that has to happen,” he said.

And that has brought about the proposal to change the district’s trustee map.

But what this all boils down to is dollars and cents. Like many school districts – and other agencies all over, for that matter, be it a hospital or irrigation board – the redistricting move aims to protect MUSD from being sued by advocacy and political groups.

The California Voting Rights Act of 2001, in a nutshell, will make it easier for minority groups to prove that their votes are being “diluted” in at-large elections, and to sue local governments and agencies such as school board like MUSD.

Manteca Unified is not exactly a trailblazer in going after redistricting, Messer said. There are other places where school districts are already voting by area. Stockton Unified School District is one of them. Lincoln Unified in Stockton is also moving into voting by district area.

“So we’re not on the forefront,” but not exactly being the last one to do so either, Messer said.

Many places like Stanislaus County and Modesto have already felt the fiscal sting after being sued for a lot of money at a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars, he pointed out. It’s money that could be used for students instead of having it spent on attorneys and political groups.

 “That’s what pushing (redistricting) the trend – keeping the district financially secure and the money going to the kids and not to political debates and attorneys,” Messer said.

The challenge, though, for Manteca is whether redistricting is a move that the trustees would like to see in place. They also have to make a decision whether to move to voting by area or at-large. This has been discussed at a special board meeting, the superintendent said.

The other step that has to be cleared in the redistricting process is for MUSD to seek a waiver from the State of California that will eliminate the need to have the electors in the school district vote on whether trustees should be elected by area and not at-large. That may take place sometime in January.

But right now, the MUSD and San Joaquin County of Education boards have to go through the required public hearing process to gather input from the public and as well as information pertinent to the California Voting Rights Act.

Commenting is not available.

Commenting not available.

Please wait ...