TITLE: Examining Latino Representation on California’s School Boards: Their Impact on Perceptions about District Problems, Priorities and Policies

AUTHORS: Luis Fraga, Daniel Krimm, Max Neiman, and Belinda Reyes

PAGES: 60     DATE: July 2010

ABSTRACT: The California Voting Rights Act of 2001 had the effect, among others, of granting standing for “protected classes” disadvantaged by at-large school board elections to sue their school districts for lack of appropriate representation. This has generated increased legal action along these lines, particularly among Latino communities that feel they are underrepresented on school boards in their jurisdictions. In this paper we explore the relationships between school district election types and other characteristics, and school board trustee perceptions and beliefs about various policy and political issues, with a specific focus on differences between Latino and white trustees. In addition to data generated from prior research and government publications, we conducted a new survey of California school board trustees’ backgrounds, political aspirations, perceptions of school district electoral competition and assessments of electoral barriers, parental engagement, problems facing the district, and policy priorities. We document that Latinos represent a relatively smaller proportion of school board members as compared to their student enrollment except in districts with extremely large Latino majorities. There is also some evidence that Latino trustee candidates face more electoral barriers than their white counterparts. Furthermore, Latino trustees’ balance of priorities and concerns differs significantly from whites in ways that correlate with differing impacts on their districts. This research underscores potential benefits of increasing ethnic diversity in school boards, and suggests various policy interventions that could affect that balance.

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