A redistricting plan that would give Los Angeles' Latino community more political clout in the running of the nation's second largest school system has been drawn up by a group of Latino activists.
The map, to be unveiled at a City Council hearing tonight, would improve the chances for a second Latino to win election to the seven-member Board of Education, which governs a school system that is 64% Latino.
Under an obscure section of the City Charter, the City Council must not only redraw its district lines but also must adjust school board district boundaries for population changes recorded in the 1990 census. The council must adopt a plan by July 1.
The plan was drafted by Marshall Diaz and Alan Clayton of the Latino Redistricting Coalition of Los Angeles. It has tentatively received the blessing of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, whose voting rights lawsuits have led to the election of Latinos to the City Council and County Board of Supervisors.
The map would give Leticia Quezada, the only Latino on the school board, a new 73% Latino district that would extend her existing East Los Angeles district to the northeast San Fernando Valley.
In return for picking up Valley neighborhoods from board colleague Roberta Weintraub, Quezada would give up communities around downtown Los Angeles and the heavily Latino cities of Bell, Cudahy, Huntington Park and South Gate, which are part of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Those areas would form a new 80% Latino district with no incumbent.
Latinos would make up 47% of the voters in each of the two districts. At present, Latinos form a majority of voters in only Quezada's district--and no more than 16% of voters in any other district.
The plan would place school board member Mark Slavkin's home, located in the heavily white Westside, in board colleague Barbara Boudreaux's mostly black district. The map also would change representation on the board for hundreds of thousands of residents.
Slavkin said he had not seen the plan but commented: "I would not support any plan that would divvy up the Westside and move my home out of the district I represent."
School board members said they hope to submit a reapportionment plan to the City Council. Council President John Ferraro, who chairs the redistricting committee, said he is looking to the board for guidance in the school district remapping.
This year's redrawing of school district boundaries has been complicated by the rapidly changing ethnic composition and by court rulings that prohibit the fragmentation of heavy concentrations of minority voters.
"This is the first time that those districts (will be) drawn with careful attention given to the Voting Rights Act," said Al Avila, chief deputy to Los Angeles Councilman Richard Alatorre.
The power of the law was best demonstrated by the historic court decision that led to a redrawing of Los Angeles County supervisorial district boundaries and the election of Gloria Molina as the first Latino supervisor this century.
Latinos account for about 40% of the city's population, but their numbers have grown more dramatically in the school district--from 39.5% of students in 1981 to 64.4% last year.
"Since we can create two districts where Latinos can elect candidates of their choosing, not to do so would be a violation of the Voting Rights Act," said Latino activist Clayton.