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Trustee Areas for School Districts

Trustee Areas for School Districts

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Published by The Natomas Buzz
Advantages and Disadvantages of “From-Trustee Area” and “By-Trustee Area” Election Systems for School Board Elections
SOURCE: Twin Rivers USD
Advantages and Disadvantages of “From-Trustee Area” and “By-Trustee Area” Election Systems for School Board Elections
SOURCE: Twin Rivers USD

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Published by: The Natomas Buzz on Mar 13, 2012
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03/13/2012

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 Advantages and Disadvantages of “From-Trustee Area” and “By-Trustee Area” Election Systems for School Board Elections
The California Education Code provides three, statutorily prescribed alternate electionmethods for local school boards: (a) “at large,” wherein the voters of the entire districtcan vote for any of the trustees, regardless of residency area; (b) “by-trustee area,” wherein the candidates must reside in the trustee area where they are running and only  voters residing in that area may vote for those particular candidates; and (c) “from-trustee area,” wherein the candidates must reside in the trustee area where they arerunning but are elected by the voters of the entire school district.These alternate election systems have both advantages and disadvantages, and whichsystem is “right” for a particular district will depend on the unique circumstances of each district.
1
 
From-Trustee Area” Election Method 
Pros Cons1.
 
Trustee’s representation is notconfined to just his/her trusteearea, and therefore allTrustees must consider thegood of the entire district.
1.
 
If a district is very large, sometrustees may never get to know parts of their district-wideconstituencies.2.
 
There is a bigger candidatepool, allowing voters to choosefrom a broader base of candidates and to supportcandidates from outside theimmediate area where they live.
2.
 
It can be more expensive andtime-consuming for Trusteesto campaign.
 
3.
 
 Where the school board isalready broadly representativeof various school districtcommunities of interest,including racial and ethnicminorities, there may be no
3.
 
 Where the school board is not broadly representative of  various school districtcommunities of interest,including racial and ethnicminorities, the election system
1
 
Throughout U.S. history, local communities’ preferences of one system over another have alternated dueto ever-changing perceptions of the advantages and disadvantages of each system. For example, the early twentieth century’s Progressive reforms ushered in the widespread replacement of “by-trustee area”systems with at-large and hybrid systems (including “from-trustee area” systems) due to the belief that at-large elections would generate more qualified (and less easily corruptible) candidates than district basedelections. Later in the century, however, at-large systems were challenged as part of the civil rightsmovement, particularly in areas where racial and ethnic minorities were underrepresented on local boards. More recently, certain respected scholars active in the voting rights field have criticized “by-trustee area” elections as a type of false “reform” in that they merely shift the effects of racial prejudicefrom the voting booth to the governmental body (i.e., minorities, even if elected in a particular district,can be routinely outvoted by the majority members of the board).
 
need to change the electionsystem.
 
may
be contributing to feweropportunities for minorities(including racial/ethnicminorities and othernumerical minorities) to electrepresentatives of their choice.
4.
 
Each voter has an equalinfluence in elections (i.e.,each voter, regardless of wherehe/she lives, may vote for
any
 of the candidates running).
4.
 
No “safe harbor” from a claimunder the California VotingRights Act.
5.
 
 All voters of the district,regardless of where they live,get to vote for Boardcandidates every two years.
6.
 
Each Trustee, although elected by the entire district, still mustreside in, be connected to and“represent” his/her subarea,ensuring that the variousgeographical subareas arealways represented
 
By-Trustee Area” Election Metho
Pros Cons
 
1.
 
Trustees are elected torepresent the specific interestsof the trustee areas, increasingthe likelihood that the Trustees will “look out” for their trusteearea constituents.
 
1.
 
The Board may become“balkanized” and parochial because each trustee is electedfrom a geographical region whose interests and priorities
 
may differ from those of the whole school district.If trustees have narrow interests/agendas, focusingonly on the constituencies thatelected them, this can precludea broader policy perspectiveand interfere with their willingness to cooperate toachieve common goals. This,in turn, can reduce studentachievement.

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