Commentary: Gerrymandering Our School District

The battle for an approved San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) boundary map grows fiercer by the day. Parents and community members complained about the lack of transparency, numerous violations of process and the apparent imperviousness of the SDUHSD Board of Trustees to community input. 

 

Why the uproar? These maps determine whether or not a particular community is represented by an elected Trustee. This, in turn, drives policy, priorities, budgets and a myriad of large and small decisions that impact each and every one of us and, most importantly, the education of our students. 

 

The goals of the Board majority – Trustees Allman, Muir, and Mossy – in choosing a map were revealed openly in writing and at public meetings. They wanted to ensure the election of ultra-conservative candidates and reduce any input from the San Dieguito Faculty Association. This imbalance challenges the principal goals of the California Voting Rights Act that prompted District elections in the first place in order to foster better representation. 

 

In numerous chaotic Board meetings leading up to the vote, the Board’s majority relentlessly filibustered, interrupted and belittled parents, colleagues and community members who challenged the boundary lines. Despite wide opposition, the SDUHSD Board approved “Scenario 8,” submitted by an anonymous individual. A lawsuit, filed by two community members, accuses the Board of gerrymandering in order to (1) punish Trustees Bronstein and Young; and (2) dilute the vote of minorities. Moreover, the lawsuit alleges the Board violated the Brown Act “Open Meeting Law.” 

 

Examples of the improperly gerrymandered map include a boundary line serpentining directly around Trustee Bronstein’s house and a completely arbitrary transposition of District Area numbers –Area 2 is now called Area 1, and vice versa. Area numbers determine the election cycle, so Scenario 8 prevents 30% of the electorate (60,000 voters) from voting in 2022, forcing them to wait six years between votes.

 

Finally, on March 30th, in a tacit acknowledgement that process violations occurred, the Board held a long overdue Public Hearing. The problem? Scenario 8 had already been approved and submitted to the County Office of Education. No wonder, then, that the County quickly followed through on an earlier warning and exercised its authority to re-draw the map, posting a public notice 72 hours later in a rushed effort to draft a new map, hold the required meetings and approve it before the April 30th deadline. In the meantime, after voting with Allman and Muir to continue spending thousands of taxpayer dollars defending a flawed map in court, Trustee Mossy has resigned.  

 

Parents and community members have fought hard to defend students’ rights to a good education, free of partisan politics.  Once approved, the County’s map is far more likely to deliver on this goal than one drafted for the political advantage of a school board’s majority.

September 2023 Issue