Mike McMahon AUSD
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In Alameda, school board members are paid $150 per meeting in a month up to a maximum of $300 monthly. In addition, they can sign up for health care benefits. (Effective July, 2008 Alameda board pay and benefit coverage was eliminated as part of 2008-09 budget reducions.) The Education Code governs the amount a board member can receive for small districts like Alameda. However, benefits are not covered and may cause fiscal problems for some districts. For large urban districts, there is a debate if board member should receive larger pay in order to attract individuals representative of socio-economically makeup of the community. In addition, board member compensation, whether the Board member of large urban cities should be elected is a question that is emerging. Newly elected mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa testified that the Mayor should appoint the seven board members to the 775,000 student school district. But then changed his mind a month later.

In addition some school districts elected their board member by geographic areas which can lead to problems. Of course the opposite maybe true as a court ruled at large elections were illegal in this case.

At the State level, legislators pay is set by an independent commission. In 2005, they recommended a 12% raise, pushing legislators into the six figure range. A commission created by voters of Los Angeles raised the pay school board members from $26,000 to $46,000. However, they can not work full time to receive the larger amount.

Big raises urged for school board

Gonzalez proposes $20,000 salary, not $500 per month

Suzanne Herel and Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle, July 1, 2004

San Francisco school board members would get a $14,000 raise under a ballot measure sponsored by Board of Supervisors President Matt Gonzalez and supported by some of his allies on the school board -- members who themselves have criticized Superintendent Arlene Ackerman for spending too much money on administration while making cuts in the classroom.

The seven members of the elected board, which governs the San Francisco Unified School District, each receive a $500 monthly stipend; Gonzalez wants them to be paid half of the beginning salary of a teacher, or about $20,000 a year.

School board member Mark Sanchez, who was visiting Gonzalez's office on Wednesday, said the pay raise would prevent the school board from being made up entirely of those in the middle and upper class, as it is now.

"The board needs to be more reflective of the community they serve," he said.

In addition, the pay raise would allow members to spend more time on issues -- like the schools' $650 million budget -- he said. This year, Sanchez said, the board barely had time to look at it and made virtually no changes.

"We're in danger of slipping into being a rubber-stamping board," said Sanchez, who teaches eighth-grade science in Redwood City and who is running for a second four-year term.

The ballot measure is similar to one that Gonzalez took heat for championing two years ago: a bid to raise the salaries of the Board of Supervisors. The Civil Service Commission subsequently increased their pay from $37,585 to $112,320, but this year dropped it to $90,000.

Sanchez said the issue of paying school board members more has been something he and Gonzalez have discussed off and on over the past three years.

His colleague on the board, Eric Mar, agreed that the need is there.

"It's such a hard position, and that $500 stipend for board members is not enough considering all the side visits we go to during the day and during off-hours," he said.

Not all the school board members think the ballot measure is a good idea.

"We have cut so many critical staff that are on the front line working with our children every day -- I can't understand how we could possibly justify taking more of a payment than we already receive," said Heather Hiles, who was appointed to the board in January by Mayor Gavin Newsom to take the place of Emilio Cruz and who is running in the November election. "We're elected into this office to provide a public service; we all do it at our own expense. It's a hardship for me to spend this much time, but it's important to make that sacrifice for our city."

School board meetings are held twice a month and can run anywhere from three to six hours, not including closed sessions for personnel discussions and talks with lawyers over legal matters.

SFSOS, a politically moderate advocacy group founded with the help of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., also opposes the measure. "We think the money should be spent on the classrooms and teachers, not on salaries for politicians," said SFSOS spokesman Bruce Cuthbertson.

He added that pegging the board members' pay to what's earned by a starting teacher would create a conflict of interest when it came time for the board to participate in salary negotiations with the teachers union.

Superintendent Ackerman was keeping mum on the issue.

"I'm going to stay out of that one. They're my bosses," she said. "I'll talk about a lot of things, but I won't talk about that."


Grand jury blasts school board trustees' benefits

Districts' 'extensive' perks have skyrocketed since 2001, panelists say

By Christine Bedell, The Californian, March 21st, 2005

The Kern County grand jury chided local school board members Monday for continuing to fund "extensive" benefits for themselves.

The issue gained prominence in 2001 when The Californian published the stipends and health-insurance benefits that dozens of Kern County school districts pay their board members.

Since then, the yearly cost countywide has soared by $484,000 to $1.9 million, Monday's grand jury report said. It jumped $252,000 in just the last year, according to the report.

That money could be much better spent, the jurors wrote.

"(Nearly $2 million) in compensation for what is historically a voluntary function represents a rather large amount of money that could be used to educate the students within their respective districts," they said.

The jurors asked school districts to review their board member-pay policies and try to spend less. They required school districts to respond to their findings in 60 days.

There are 232 school board trustees throughout Kern, the jury said.

The Panama-Buena Vista Union School District will spend $24,000 this year on board member stipends and $100,000 on benefits for both active and retired trustees, the report said.

That's appropriate, said Cathy Brown, a Panama-Buena Vista board member. It's a "minuscule" percentage of the district's $90 million budget, she said, and makes the position more attractive to qualified people.

She estimates she spends 20 to 40 hours a month preparing for and attending meetings and participating in other school-related activities.

"It takes a lot of time to do what we do," Brown said. "It's fair to compensate for that."

Out in Ridgecrest, the Sierra Sands Unified School District is spending $20,160 on stipends and $68,442 on benefits for trustees, according to the grand jury report.

Sierra Sands board member Amy Covert said if she had her way, she and her colleagues wouldn't receive health benefits -- or at least would have to pitch in for those benefits as part-time employees do.

"I'd rather see the money go to classrooms," she said.

Covert said she tried to turn down her school district benefits but was told if one member received them, all had to. She said she uses the benefits because the district is going to pay for them anyway.

She said she's "50/50" on whether school board members should get a stipend.

The jurors said districts have long reimbursed board members for expenses incurred on the job and paid to send them to conferences and training. But paying monthly stipends and the same health benefits given to teachers is a "relatively recent trend," they said.

The grand jury named school districts that do not pay benefits for board members: Belridge Elementary, Blake Elementary, El Tejon Unified, Kernville Union, Linns Valley-Poso Flat Union, Muroc Joint Unified and Rio Bravo-Greeley Union.

It said by law, trustees can set their own benefits as long as they follow state limits. Trustees don't have to accept the benefits, the jurors wrote, but most do.


Commission OKs pay increase for state legislators


By Mark Gladstone, San Jose Mercury News, May 24th, 2005

The state budget continues to bleed red ink and public approval ratings of legislators are anemic. Still, on Monday lawmakers were handed something they could take to the bank: on Dec. 5 their paychecks will be 12 percent fatter.

The independent panel responsible for handing out pay raises unanimously boosted salaries from $99,000 to $110,880 for rank-and-file legislators. It was the first legislative pay hike approved in seven years.

The salaries for the four top leaders, including Assembly Speaker Fabian Nez and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, will jump from $113,850 to $127,512. Pay for the people filling the leadership positions was last increased in 1999.

John Mack, president of the Los Angeles Urban League and chairman of the California Citizen's Compensation Commission, said that if his panel continued ``to deny fair compensation, we're going to further exacerbate'' the difficulty ``of attracting quality people'' for office.

The commission was set up in 1990 partly to insulate lawmakers from the political risk of raising their own pay. If history is any guide, however, legislators will still be assailed for obtaining a six-figure salary. California legislators also receive a tax-free payment of $138 for each day the Legislature is in session as well as other benefits.

Even before the commission's Monday's vote, the basic pay of a California legislator was the highest in the nation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. New York comes in second with $79,650.

Not all get raises

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a wealthy former movie actor, forgoes his $175,000-a-year salary. The governor and other constitutional officeholders, such as the attorney general and state controller, were not given pay raises. Last week, Patricia Clarey, the governor's chief of staff, told Mack in a letter: ``Increasing the salaries of elected officials at this time would send the wrong signal to California's hard-working citizens.''

Instead, the panel's five members, all appointed by former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, debated the proper pay hike, discussing a range of 9 percent to 14 percent before finally settling on a 12 percent boost.

The panel was established in 1990 by voter passage of Proposition 112, a reform designed to make legislators less dependent on special interest money. It grew out of an undercover FBI operation in the late 1980s which led to the convictions of 12 public officials on a variety of corruption charges. Under the measure, the commission was given independent responsibility for setting salaries for California's elected officials.

The commission decision comes at a time when public approval of the Legislature remains negative and the state continues to wrestle with budget deficits. In a February Field Poll, 36 percent of Californians approved of the Legislature's overall job. That's in sharp contrast to two years ago when the approval rating had plunged to 19 percent, but still below the 46 percent registered in December 2001.

On Monday, lawmakers initially said they were unaware of the commission action and many said they were unsure if they would accept the higher salary. Some noted they would still receive less than superior court judges or members of the Los Angeles City Council. Of the dozen or so interviewed, most seemed to welcome the additional money.

Assemblyman Alberto Torrico, D-Fremont, a freshman, said that in light of the continuing budget deficit projections, the timing of the pay decision was ``unfortunate.''

Needs more details

``I haven't been here long enough to know if I deserve a raise or not,'' he added. Torrico wasn't sure if he would turn it down, saying he needs more details.

Likewise, Speaker Nez, D-Los Angeles, said he'll need to think about whether to take the raise. ``Is it needed? Absolutely. Is it a tough time to do it? Yes.''

Senate Republican Leader Dick Ackerman, R-Tustin, defended the increase. Ackerman said legislators' salaries have lagged behind the pay for comparable public officials, such as city managers, county supervisors and school superintendents. Furthermore, legislators do not receive retirement contributions and other pension perks many others do, Ackerman said.

``They've taken their action and it's fine with me,'' Ackerman said of the commission. ``Some of the people, myself included, took a pay cut to come here and had pension plans at other jobs.''

Ackerman and Senate Leader Perata, D-Oakland, plan to accept the higher salary.

While lawmakers cautiously welcomed the action, it continued to meet objections in the governor's office.

``Obviously, this is the wrong time to be giving more money to politicians.'' said Vince Sollitto, a deputy press secretary for the governor. ``California continues to face tremendous fiscal challenges that have forced the state to forgo investments in many important areas,'' he added.

Lawmaker pay

California lawmakers, whose annual salaries will be increased to $110,880 and who receive $138 a day expense allowance while in session, are the highest paid in the country. Here is a sampling of what legislators are paid in other states and the District of Colombia:

District of Columbia -- $92,500 per year (no allowance for daily expenses)

Pennsylvania -- $66,203 per year ($125 daily expense allowance)

Michigan -- $79,650 per year ($12,000 yearly expense allowance)

Illinois -- $55,788 per year ($85 daily expense allowance)

Massachusetts -- $53,380 per year (Up to $100 daily expense allowance)

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures



City Control of Schools Advocated

Mayor should appoint Board of Education as one step in a broad transformation of the district, Villaraigosa tells panel of legislators

By Joel Rubin and Jessica Garrison, Los Angeles Times, June 21, 2005

In a controversial proposal that could end voter control over the Los Angeles school board, Mayor-elect Antonio Villaraigosa said Friday that the mayor should appoint the board overseeing the nation's second-largest school system.

"I am prepared to say that, ultimately, I think the mayor should be able to appoint all the members of the school board," Villaraigosa told a state legislative committee during a public hearing on school governance held in downtown Los Angeles.

The seven board members who oversee the 740,000-student Los Angeles Unified School District are elected from geographic districts. But big-city mayors, including those in New York City and Boston, have increasingly sought greater control over their school boards.

"I am not looking for more power. I just got elected to a great job and have plenty of that," Villaraigosa said while addressing the panel. "I'm looking for accountability."

The mayor-elect said he saw control over the board as just one piece of a "transformation" that he hoped would give parents and teachers "the authority they need to improve the quality of our schools." He also called for safer campuses, more parental involvement, better teaching and more money for schools.

His comments come as both the City Council and the school board launch commissions to explore school governance.

But Villaraigosa's proposal is fraught with legal and political complications and would face serious hurdles.

Chief among them would be what to do about the more than two dozen other cities whose children attend the district's schools but whose citizens have no voice in electing the Los Angeles mayor. A mayor-appointed school board would also require significant changes in state law.

Politically, it also faces opposition from the powerful United Teachers Los Angeles union, whose new leader, A.J. Duffy, has vowed to fight such a plan "tooth and nail."

Villaraigosa, who will officially take office on July 1, made education a centerpiece of his campaign. Two days after Mayor James K. Hahn proposed that the mayor appoint three members to the school board, Villaraigosa called for the mayor to have "ultimate control" over the schools but offered few details on what he meant by control.

On Friday, he said he would proceed cautiously, working to build consensus among parents, teachers and school officials.

"This is not going to happen overnight," he said in an interview.

A push to make school board appointments would pit Villaraigosa against some of his most ardent supporters. UTLA, which once employed Villaraigosa, spent $185,000 on radio ads to support him, and the California Teachers Assn. spent $500,000 on a television ad mocking Hahn's education record.

"Changing governance won't build one school, it won't buy one textbook," said John Perez, outgoing UTLA president and a Villaraigosa ally. "It will just create a system where the board members are much more distant from the community."

Barbara Kerr, president of the California Teachers Assn., also expressed disapproval. "There are a lot of things that Antonio can do as mayor to work with the school district and [the union] to improve schools, but taking over the district is not one of them," she said. "We like Antonio, but this is a philosophical disagreement."

Others questioned whether giving the mayor control of the district would result in improvements. Few deny that the district faces daunting challenges. Recent studies have shown that fewer than half of high school students graduate. And this spring, there have been incidents of on-campus racial tension and violence.

"The problems of LAUSD aren't because of who is on the school board," said Erwin Chemerinsky, a law professor and expert on Los Angeles politics and governance. "I'm skeptical of how much difference it would really make."

He said former Mayor Richard Riordan, who later served as state secretary of education, in essence seized control of the school board when he funded the election of a slate of candidates that supported his reforms.

Four years later, most of those members have been voted off, and the district, he said, "didn't really change."

Villaraigosa said Riordan's efforts were "not the same thing" as his proposal.

School board member David Tokofsky called Villaraigosa's move "a distraction" in a district that is grappling with enormous challenges, including severe overcrowding at some schools. "He's trying to do the right thing, but it's not governance that matters as much curriculum and instruction," Tokofsky said.

But political analysts said Villaraigosa's comments, which came in response to questions from state Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) and Sen. Tom Torlakson (D-Antioch), showed that he did not intend to back away from an issue of vital importance to voters. Throughout the mayoral campaign, voters repeatedly said education was their top priority, even though the mayor has no direct control over the school system.

"It's a grandiose way of really coming out in support of a pledge he made during the campaign," said Jaime Regalado, executive director of the Edmund G. "Pat" Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State L.A. "Realistically, it probably sets off a series of negotiations, both publicly and behind doors, to see what's doable."

Romero, a Villaraigosa ally who chairs the Senate select committee on urban school governance, said she was happy to hear Villaraigosa's pledge. The legislator said she was considering proposing legislation that would grant the mayor greater control over schools.

Calling the present system of elected board members "broken," Romero said, "I believe the mayor should have a much more prominent role."

Also at the hearing, Riordan, Hahn and former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg expressed their support for mayoral control of the school board. Hertzberg, who also ran for mayor, made education one of the chief issues in the campaign with his proposal to split up the district.

In recent years, mayors of other large cities, including Chicago, Boston, Detroit, Oakland and New York, have sought greater power over school districts, chipping away at rules that have guaranteed independent school districts in this country.

Mayor-controlled school systems have had a mixed record.

Last fall, voters in Detroit abandoned their appointed school board and returned to a system of elected trustees. And Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown recently declared that his run at adding appointees to the seven-member elected board had been a failure.

But in Chicago and Boston, school officials have said they think mayoral control has brought improvements.

School chiefs from Boston, Chicago and New York addressed the state Senate committee via remote video feeds.

"There is greater accountability," said Boston schools Supt. Thomas Payzant. "With the mayor in charge, it's very clear who it is that the people are going to look to when the results are in."

But the situation in Los Angeles is more complicated because the sprawling district encompasses part or all of 28 other cities as well as unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.

"Those are all issues that we'd have to work out," Villaraigosa said. "I'm going to work to build public support among all the stakeholders."


School Reform Plans Scaled Back

Villaraigosa says he will delay a bid for mayoral control of L.A. Unified until the city can try more modest steps for education reform

By Richard Fausset, Los Angeles Times, July 19, 2005

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Monday that he will postpone his efforts to take over the city's ailing public school system until more modest reforms he hopes to put in place have a chance to work.

Villaraigosa unveiled the thrust of those reforms Monday at an education symposium in downtown Los Angeles, saying they would focus on ways that city government can improve the learning environment on campuses, including initiatives to make students healthier and safer, among others.

"We have to begin with the question: What can the city of Los Angeles do to support the education of its public schoolchildren?" he said.

Villaraigosa has made reform of the Los Angeles Unified School District a centerpiece of his administration, even though the mayor has no legal influence over the 742,000-student district.

During his campaign, Villaraigosa said he wanted to change that. The mayor, he said, should have "ultimate control and oversight" over the troubled school district. But he has insisted that any takeover would come after collaboration with parents, students, district officials and teachers.

It was in that spirit that the mayor talked generally about his hoped-for reform package Monday in front of a crowd that included district Supt. Roy Romer. "I come today as a partner, not as someone to throw stones," he said.

Last week, state Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) introduced a bill that would allow the mayor to appoint the majority of school board members. The seven members are currently elected by district.

Romero said that she did not consult Villaraigosa or his staff in drafting the bill, and that the mayor has reacted coolly to the legislation.

Villaraigosa told reporters Monday that he supported it "in concept." But even if the bill passed, he said, it would not allow the mayor to take control of the schools for as many as four years. As a result, Villaraigosa said he wanted to focus "on the areas we can work on now."

He also said that delaying a mayoral takeover would allow him to build consensus around the idea and help avoid the perception that he was taking over the schools "by executive fiat."

Villaraigosa said he was still committed to the idea of mayoral control of the school board, though he was vague about the timetable.

"I could tell you this," he said. "We're going to put these initiatives on the table. If it becomes clear to me that this school district is unwilling to innovate, unwilling to create a partnership with the city and other strategic partners, if it becomes clear to me that it's the status quo and the bureaucracy prevailing once again, then it will be time."

Villaraigosa said that in the short term, the city could do much to help the district, which struggles with low test scores and high dropout rates. He said the city government already is in the education and child-care business, spending $295 million annually on 95 programs aimed at helping youths.

The city, he said, needs to find a way to make sure that investment is being made wisely and is better coordinated with the school district.

The symposium was sponsored by New Schools/Better Neighborhoods, a local group that seeks to transform schools into community meeting places.

Villaraigosa said municipal government could play a part in that transformation by bolstering its focus on safety, student health, truancy and after-school programs.

The details of the proposed collaboration will be hammered out by Villaraigosa's new education council.

The mayor has not announced the members, but said they will include parents, teachers and education experts. The first meeting is slated for July 27, and he expects the panel to report to him before school starts in September.

A mayoral takeover of the schools has been strongly opposed by the labor union United Teachers Los Angeles. The group's president, A.J. Duffy, equates it with "replacing one bloated bureaucracy with another."

Villaraigosa has close ties to the teachers union. He once was an organizer for the union and benefited from television ads that the state teachers association ran on his behalf during the recent campaign.

On Monday, Duffy said the mayor was "wise and prudent" to wait a while. But he said he took the takeover threat seriously.

"I think the only thing that's going to convince Mayor Villaraigosa is results," he said. "It is incumbent upon me and others to ensure that we produce results."

July 30, 2005 Update

School Advisory Panel Named

Villaraigosa appoints a board of educators and experts to focus on improving L.A. Unified

By Richard Fausset, Los Angeles Times, July 30, 2005

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa introduced a group of teachers, principals and education experts Friday who will advise him on education reform, one of the primary goals of his administration.

The group, which he has named the Council of Education Advisors, will focus on ways the city can help the Los Angeles Unified School District. It will also suggest ways the district can institute its own changes.

During his campaign, Villaraigosa said he believed the mayor should have ultimate control of the school district. The mayor of Los Angeles has no formal role in running the public schools, which are overseen by an elected board. Villaraigosa said he wanted the power to appoint the members, but since his inauguration has said he would postpone a takeover effort until he can build a consensus for the change.

In the meantime, he said, the advisory group would work on other ways to improve the educational environment, including lowering dropout rates and truancy, and making schools safer.

"I want to look at what we can do right now," Villaraigosa told the group during a break in their first meeting at Los Angeles Trade Technical College.

The group has 30 members, but that may grow in the coming weeks.

The mayor's office offered a partial list Friday that included Genethia Hayes, a former school board member; Miranda Ra'oof, an assistant principal at AP Manual Arts High School; Judy Burton, executive director of the Alliance for College Ready Schools; and A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, the city's teachers union.


Trustee voted after leaving

By Zachary K. Johnson , Stockton Record, Sept 1, 2005

MANTECA -- Trustee Paul Gutierrez voted at a Manteca Unified School District meeting after he officially vacated his seat on the board, school officials said Wednesday at a special meeting that was called after his unexpected departure.

That might force the board to vote anew on everything that was decided at the Aug. 23 meeting. Board President Dale Fritchen said district staff would review all of the board's recent actions and see what needs to be reconsidered for a new vote.

"I want to be sure we do everything correctly," Fritchen said. "If we have to re-vote on everything, then we'll do that."

The board also began the process of appointing Gutierrez's replacement.

Gutierrez was elected to represent Trustee Area 5 in 1998 and was reelected in 2002. He moved out of the district and has a new home in Trustee Area 4.

His seat officially became vacant Aug. 19, Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer said.

Fritchen read a statement at the start of the meeting that was written by Gutierrez. The former trustee wrote that he was "deeply saddened and somewhat embarrassed" about his departure, explaining that he long assumed he would be able to continue to serve on the board if he moved.

"I understand now that assumption was incorrect. ... I apologize for my misunderstanding," Gutierrez wrote.

One vote from the Aug. 23 meeting that would have been a tie without Gutierrez's vote was on Wednesday's agenda. The board voted 4-3 in favor of drawing up plans for a new district facility.

The board put the item on Wednesday's agenda. It passed again with a 5-1 vote.

The board also voted unanimously to appoint a successor for Gutierrez instead of putting his seat on the ballot. Calling for a special election or putting the vacancy on the June 2006 primary ballot could have cost the district up to $200,000, Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Don Halseth told the board.

The board has 60 days from the time the seat became vacant to appoint a new trustee, Nichols-Washer said. The deadline for applicants was set for Sept. 16.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Gutierrez said he was still interested in serving the community and didn't rule out running for public office in the future.

"I'm thinking about the options that are available for me," he said.


L.A. school board gets 73% pay increase

A little-known compensation panel decides that only those who agree not to hold down other jobs will be entitled to it, however

By David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times, July 28, 2007

An obscure citizens panel voted Friday to hike the annual pay of Los Angeles Unified School District board members by 73%, increasing it from roughly $26,000 to nearly $46,000 but only for board members who agree not to hold down other jobs.

The Charter Amendment L Compensation Review Committee rebuffed a last-minute request for a much bigger salary boost by Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar, who asked that school board members receive as much as $90,000 a year.

On a 5-1 vote, the committee said school board members who oversee a system with more than 700,000 children and a $7-billion budget should receive a sum commensurate with the salary of a newly hired L.A. Unified teacher.

"I think it's important for a school board member to understand the challenges of a starting teacher, and one of those challenges is living on that" salary, said committee member Patricia Clarey, an executive at Health Net and a former chief of staff to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The little-known compensation panel was created in March, thanks to a ballot measure designed to overhaul the school district. Its decision cannot be appealed or reversed by the school board or the City Council, said Assistant City Atty. Valerie Flores.

Friday's vote provided the first major increase in school board compensation since 1984, when the state Legislature increased the monthly stipend from $1,000 to $2,000. Over the last three years, that sum has grown incrementally to $2,195 per month.

Huizar spokesman George Gonzalez said Friday that the councilman was unavailable for comment. But school board President Monica Garcia voiced disappointment in the decision, calling the new salary figure "a challenging number to live on."

"I've been on the record [saying] I think this is a full-time job," said Garcia, who predicted that she will be forced to find a job outside the district. "I would like it to be a higher number, a higher salary."

The vote also delivered a clear rebuke to Huizar, a former school board member who began the process of increasing school board pay two years ago.

In 2005, Huizar pushed for the creation of a 30-member citizens panel to study L.A. Unified's governing structure, which ultimately recommended that school board members receive full-time pay.

Four months ago, voters approved a Huizar-backed ballot measure that established the compensation panel. And Huizar told the compensation committee personally a few weeks ago that school board pay should fall in line with the salary of a school district administrator.

But committee members warned that a more dramatic leap in pay would risk a political firestorm and jeopardize support for a future school construction bond measure. Instead, the panel unanimously embraced a two-tier pay system that forces school board members to make a choice: work exclusively for the district or take another job and receive a lower stipend.

"Are you going to be a school board member who commits full time and does the job necessary, or are you working other jobs?" said committee member Debra Silbar, a parent at Topanga Charter Elementary School. "That could become a campaign issue, and I think that's very positive."

The committee's decision means that board members Yolie Flores Aguilar and Tamar Galatzan two members of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's new school board majority, both of whom are employed will see no increase in board pay.

By contrast, the board's retired or nonworking members Garcia, Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, Julie Korenstein, Marlene Canter and Richard Vladovic will receive raises as long as they don't return to the work force.

Vladovic spokesman David Kooper said his boss may sacrifice the extra school district money so he can return to teaching part time.

And Galatzan, who earns $128,000 annually as a deputy city attorney, said she has no intention of giving up her job.

Friday's debate took place in front of just six people, four of them aides to Aguilar, Galatzan, Huizar and Villaraigosa. All but the Galatzan aide furiously typed text messages on their cellphones as the committee conducted its debate.

Minutes before the compensation committee voted, an aide to Huizar who earns $171,648 annually as a councilman submitted a letter recommending that the school board pay reach a range of $70,000 to $90,000.

But Silbar said the larger sum would lure politicians looking to climb the ladder. "That would turn this position into something like a political parking spot," she said.


Madera school board election nullified before the vote

Judge says its at-large provision works against Latinos in violation of the Voting Rights Act

By Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times, September 25, 2008

A judge in Central California has taken the unusual step of tossing out, in advance, the results of an upcoming school board election after finding that it violated the terms of the California Voting Rights Act.

Madera County Superior Court Judge James E. Oakley concluded Tuesday that at-large elections for three school board seats put Latino candidates at a disadvantage and should be replaced by elections in which the board is divided into districts, according to spokesmen for the Madera Unified School District and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, which demanded the change.

Because ballots have already been printed, the school board race will still be included on the Nov. 4 ballot in Madera but will not be certified by the county clerk. A special election will be scheduled, probably to coincide with the general election next June.

"This is a historic decision," Robert Rubin, legal director of the San Francisco-based lawyers group, said Wednesday. "This is the first time that a court has enjoined an election, at least under this law. And it hopefully will send a signal to other jurisdictions around the state that discriminatory election systems will not be tolerated."

The Lawyers Committee sued the school district in August, complaining that although 82% of its 18,500 students are Latino, only one Latino sits on the seven-member school board, and only one other Latino has served on the board in the last 25 years. Since 1996, Rubin said, Latinos have run for school board eight times, but in all but one case have been defeated by what he called "Anglo bloc voting."

Because many Latinos are not citizens or are too young to vote, only 44% of Madera's eligible voting population is Latino, giving whites a majority. Rubin said his group favors a system of voting districts that would include at least three with Latino majorities.

A spokesman for the district, Jake Bragonier, said the board did not oppose the judge's injunction but did not acknowledge wrongdoing. "It was essentially a business decision," he said. "If we want to fight this, we're going to be paying a lot of money one way or the other -- even if we win."

Earlier this year, the city of Modesto settled a voting rights case with the Lawyers Committee over at-large elections for City Council, agreeing to pay $3 million in legal fees. Since March, Rubin said, the committee has threatened to sue 20 to 25 jurisdictions throughout the state that hold at-large elections in which Latinos appear to be at a disadvantage.

Madera Unified legal bill: $1.2 million

District is losing party in civil-rights battl

By Chris Collins, The Fresno Bee, Jan 28, 2009

To avoid a costly legal battle with civil-rights groups, Madera Unified school officials last year reluctantly agreed to change the way trustees are elected.

School administrators thought they were in the clear. But then came the bill: $1.2 million for lawyers from the winning side.

Now Superintendent John Stafford -- angered that his district has to pay a seven-figure tab for a lawsuit that never went to trial -- is protesting the fees. He said paying the bill will cripple the district as it struggles with the state's budget crisis.

"We find it very unfortunate that [the] plaintiffs are now requesting the district to pay the exorbitant sum of over $1 million in legal fees," Stafford wrote in a letter released Wednesday. "We are acutely aware of the importance of ensuring that our limited resources are devoted to the education of children, not taking them out of the classroom to pay for litigation."

But one of the groups demanding the fees, the San Francisco-based Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, said the district can only blame itself. Robert Rubin, the group's legal director, said the district failed to heed his earlier warnings that it was violating state law.

The dispute began last March when the lawyers' committee told Madera Unified that it was not following the California Voting Rights Act.

The 2002 law says that board members in many government districts with large minority voting populations should be elected by area rather than at large. It is meant to give Hispanics and other minority groups proportionate political influence.

With at-large elections, candidates must seek votes districtwide. With by-area elections, districts are divided into areas whose voters choose a trustee to represent them. The candidates must live in the areas they serve.

The lawyers' committee told Madera Unified in a letter that its at-large system diluted Hispanics' ability to elect someone who could represent them. About 44% of voting-age citizens in the district are Hispanic, according to the 2000 census, but there has been only one Hispanic board member in the last 15 years, the letter said.

School administrators wrote back, saying they didn't see why they had to hold by-area elections.

The lawyers' committee sent a second letter in June, offering statistics to support its case and warning that it would sue if the district didn't change its election system. The district never responded to the second letter because it was too vague, district spokesman Jake Bragonier said.

Two months later, the committee filed suit on behalf of three Hispanic residents. After realizing it faced an uphill legal battle, the district decided to move toward by-area elections and avoid the cost of contesting the lawsuit.

But the lawyers' committee wanted immediate change. It asked a judge to invalidate November's at-large elections. The judge agreed to do so.

Shortly thereafter, the district and the committee settled the lawsuit. The district now plans to hold by-area elections in June.

Even though the case didn't go to trial, the district was still the losing party and therefore must foot the bill, said Rubin, the committee's lawyer.

He said that instead of blaming lawyers for the fees, the district should admit its mistakes.

"In light of the fiscal crisis, school officials should be even more careful about taking positions contrary to the law," he said.

Stafford's letter said the committee and other groups involved in the suit are asking for $1.2 million, but Bragonier said he could not provide a copy of the legal bill since the district and the committee are still negotiating what the district will pay.

It's unclear why the plaintiffs' attorneys are asking for $1.2 million. Rubin wouldn't confirm how much the attorneys are asking for and said he could not estimate how many hours were spent on the case.

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Last modified: July 19, 2005

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