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Are You An LAUSD Voter? Your School Board Member May Have Just Changed

A woman wearing a black shirt and glasses listens in the background as a man, blurred in the foreground, speaks.
Los Angeles Unified School Board member Mónica García listens to fellow board member George McKenna during a meeting on Aug. 22, 2017.
(Kyle Stokes
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Los Angeles Unified is the largest school district in the nation that has an elected school board. That’s different from New York and Chicago, where the city’s mayor controls the school board. Los Angeles voters directly decide who’s in charge of K-12 education in the city.

Now, some parts of LAUSD have new school board representatives.

L.A. City Council members voted Wednesday to approve a new LAUSD board map that sorts many of the neighborhoods that ring downtown Los Angeles into new districts.

Two side-by-side maps show the boundaries of L.A. Unified School Board districts. On the left is a multicolored map showing the map as it has existed since 2012. The right shows the seven districts as they've been redrawn recently as part of the redistricting process.
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Among other changes that reassign thousands of voters to new LAUSD representatives, the new map also redraws the boundaries of three school board districts where they intersect in the southern half of the San Fernando Valley.

Wednesday’s routine, unanimous vote caps a months-long redistricting process that follows the Census count every 10 years. (The council postponed a separate vote to adopt new boundaries for their own districts after discovering a technical error in the proposal.)

An appointed, 13-member commission drew up the new boundaries for the seven board seats. In its final report, the commission said that — as in the previous version — the new map maintains three LAUSD board districts in which an outright majority of voting-age citizens are Latino. They also said the new map would divide fewer high school attendance zones between multiple districts.

The most significant changes were to Board District 5, which since 2002 has covered both southeast L.A. cities including Huntington Park, Southgate and Bell, as well as northeast L.A. neighborhoods such as Eagle Rock and Silver Lake.

The old map linked district 5’s lower-income, predominantly Latino south with its gentrifying, higher-income north through a narrow sliver of East L.A.

The new map maintains district 5’s north-south dynamic, but links the two halves through Koreatown and Historic South Central and Hollywood, instead of through East L.A. and El Sereno.

Many activists in southeast L.A. politics have long maintained district 5’s boundaries have put the southern half at a disadvantage. Since 2002, a Latino has held the seat roughly half of the time — but all of the representatives have resided in the northern half, where voter turnout has historically been higher. Critics have compared district 5’s new shape with the original 1812 political cartoon that coined the term “gerrymandering.”

But some public commenters cheered the new map for uniting other eastside communities in one board district. The new map achieves this by drawing all of El Sereno and unincorporated East L.A. into district 2.

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Highland Park and Los Feliz will also get redrawn into the district, setting the stage for a momentous, wide-open 2022 election: longtime district 2 incumbent Mónica García will be termed out and unable to seek re-election.

In the southern San Fernando Valley, the new map straightens the border between the west valley’s district 3 and the East Valley’s district 6 — home of current board president Kelly Gonez, who’s running for re-election next year — hewing a little more closely to the 405 and 101 Freeways as natural boundaries.

The map also shifted part of Reseda into district 4 — much to the dismay of the neighborhood council, which spoke out against the new map, claiming it separates their neighborhood from other similar communities. District 4 also covers westside areas south of the Santa Monica Mountains, from Venice to the Palisades to West Hollywood. The district’s incumbent board member, Nick Melvoin, is also up for re-election in 2022.

The new map also unites all of the city of Gardena under one school board member (district 7) for the first time. Here’s a look at an interactive version of the new school board map:

What questions do you have about K-12 education in Southern California?
Kyle Stokes reports on the public education system — and the societal forces, parental choices and political decisions that determine which students get access to a “good” school (and how we define a “good school”).

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