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LOCAL VOTERS' GUIDE

Amendment calls for school board reform

If approved by voters Tuesday, the proposal for L.A. Unified will cap campaign contributions and set term limits.

March 04, 2007|Joel Rubin | Times Staff Writer

Along with casting ballots to fill four open seats on the Los Angeles Board of Education, voters will decide Tuesday on an amendment to the Los Angeles City Charter that would impose several reforms on the school board, including campaign contribution restrictions and term limits.

Charter Amendment L would curb donations to school board candidates, allowing donors a single $1,000 contribution to each candidate. Candidates, in turn, would have to disclose campaign finances under the city's more restrictive rules, instead of the state rules that currently apply.

Amendment L would cap a board member's tenure at three four-year terms, for a maximum of 12 years. Current board members would be eligible to serve three more terms.

The amendment also calls for a special committee to convene every five years to decide how much the board's seven members, considered part-time employees, should be paid. They currently receive about $25,000 a year.

The amendment would do nothing, however, to limit the large expenditures made by independent groups or individuals on behalf of candidates, a practice common in other races. It also does not provide city funds to match the money raised by candidates.

There are currently no limits on contributions or how long a board member can serve.

The proposed reforms require changes to the Los Angeles charter, which spells out governance of the sprawling school district. Voters outside L.A. but within the boundaries of Los Angeles Unified School District are allowed to vote.

Supporters of the proposed amendment say it is needed to bring the seven-member school board more in line with other elected bodies.

Several current board members oppose part or all of Amendment L but have been reluctant to criticize it publicly out of concern that they will appear self-serving. They have said, however, that the proposed changes were politically motivated. The amendment's author, City Councilman Jose Huizar, is a close ally of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has battled with the board majority for some control of the school district.

Huizar denies any political back story, pointing out that the basic ideas in the amendment were first proposed by a commission convened to consider reforms at L.A. Unified.

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joel.rubin@latimes.com

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