By Alex Schaffer
Thirty-eight of the top enrollment school districts in California will be holding elections for a total of 116 seats on November 5, 2013. Few of these districts held primary elections to narrow their candidate fields, so there are 200 candidates vying for seats in contested elections. An additional 27 candidates are running unopposed, which has resulted in several districts canceling elections after no challengers arose to campaign against incumbents who filed to keep their seats. California school board elections are non-partisan, however, local political parties often endorse their preferred candidates.
Candidates across the state are attempting to focus voter attention on issues that range from a multi-district textbook theft ring to the implementation of new Common Core standards. Widespread teacher layoffs and furlough days have become an annual reality for many California school districts, who have explored a variety of methods to eliminate the budget gaps necessitating these fiscal cuts. Some districts, such as West Covina Unified School District, have avoided budget cutbacks by offering early retirement incentives to employees. Other districts, such as Visalia Unified School District, have chosen to launch solar energy projects that are projected to reduce their energy costs by millions of dollars.
Spotlight: Compton Unified School District
Thirteen candidates are competing in the Compton Unified school board election for four seats in a district that serves 24,710 students in 40 schools. The crowded field may result from changing demographics in the district. The majority of the city's population is Hispanic, but no Hispanic representatives sit on either the school board or the city council. Relations within the Compton community have become strained, which is evidenced by the $41 million lawsuit that has been brought against both the school district and the police department alleging racial profiling. The lawsuit's plaintiffs claim the profiling stems back to 2009, which is when Latino parents in the district began to protest the district's inadequate funding for English as a Second Language programs.
Incumbent candidates Margie N. Garrett, Satra D. Zurita and Mae Thomas are facing stiff competition despite Zurita receiving several endorsements from local labor unions and prominent Compton residents. The SEIU Local 99 teachers union endorsed Zurita along with challengers Stephany A. Ortega and Compton College District Governing Board member and former Compton City Clerk Charles Davis, who are both campaigning for at-large seats. The race has also attracted former Miss Compton candidate and community organizer Cierra Amber Evans, who is a member of both the Compton Chamber of Commerce and the Latino Chamber of Commerce.
- ↑ Richard Winton, LA Times, "13 school workers, librarians indicted in textbook theft ring," September 5, 2013
- ↑ Juliette Funes, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, "West Covina Unified avoids layoffs through retirement incentives," March 18, 2013
- ↑ Business Journal, "Visalia school district embarks on solar project," May 22, 2013
- ↑ Ed-Data, "District Profile - Fiscal Year: 2012-13," accessed November 1, 2013
- ↑ Abby Sewell, Los Angeles Times, "Suit accuses Compton school district of abuse, racial profiling," May 13, 2013
- ↑ Vote for Satra Zurita, "Endorsements," accessed November 1, 2013
- ↑ SEIU Local 99, "SEIU Local 99 Education Workers and L.A. Labor Federation Endorse School Board Candidates for Compton, Hacienda-La Puente, Lynwood, and Torrance Unified School Districts," September 17, 2013