Votes Delayed on Resolutions to Give Non-Citizen Parents the Right to Vote in School Board Elections and to Ensure Equal Access to Magnet Schools

Board member Kelly Gonez is delaying votes on two resolutions to vet them in board committees.

Board member Kelly Gonez is delaying votes on two resolutions to vet them in board committees.

Votes will be delayed on two resolutions from Board Member Kelly Gonez (BD6) to explore giving non-citizen parents the right to vote in school board elections and to compile data on enrollment trends in LAUSD’s schools of choice to ensure equitable access for all kids.

Both resolutions, which had been slated for votes Tuesday, will now be referred to newly formed board committees first before coming up for a vote in October, Gonez told Speak UP by email Friday.

The parent voting resolution will likely go to the government affairs committee, while the "Access and Opportunity for All: Analyzing Enrollment Patterns to Support School Integration Efforts," will likely head to the data/information technology committee.

The voting resolution directs the superintendent to research a potential ballot initiative to give all LAUSD parents, grandparents, legal guardians or caregivers of a child living within LAUSD boundaries the right to vote, including undocumented immigrants and other non-citizens.

“All parents in Los Angeles have an equal stake in the important decisions made by this governing body and in the selection of their respective representative on the Board,” reads the resolution.

 In 2018, San Francisco became the largest city in the country to allow non-citizens to vote in school board elections, but only 52 non-citizens registered, likely due to fears that the Trump administration would access the voter registry and use it to target immigrant families. 

About 42 percent of children living in Southern California have at least one immigrant non-citizen parent, according to the Gonez resolution, and non-citizens in Los Angeles are already allowed to vote in Neighborhood Council elections.

“Our parents are critical stakeholders in our public education system, and all of their voices should be heard in determining who represents them on the school board,” Gonez told Speak UP. “L.A. Unified has been leading the way to uplift our immigrant communities, especially at a time that the Trump administration is seeking to dehumanize them and actively undermining their human rights.”

Gonez said that a study group on the issue would need to consider several issues including confidentiality and protection from retaliation. “I’d want to ensure that we resolve those issues before moving forward with any ballot initiative because this is intended to empower, not endanger, our immigrant families.”

Equitable Enrollment

The second resolution from Gonez, which Board President Richard Vladovic has signed on as a co-sponsor, seeks to ensure that the most underserved students, including low-income students, students of color, students with disabilities, homeless youth, foster youth and newly arrived English Learners have equal access to the district's coveted choice programs, such as magnet and dual-language schools.

“L.A. Unified has an incredibly diverse student population, but not all schools reflect that same diversity,” Gonez said. “We want to look at our enrollment at our neighborhood schools and our magnet and other choice programs to find ways to make the system more equitable and to encourage greater diversity in our schools, including across lines of race, socioeconomic level, language background, and special needs.”  

Students in L.A. Unified’s magnet programs, which were created to racially integrate schools, tend to show higher academic achievement, but the enrollment process is a complex points-based application system.

As a result, magnets in the past have enrolled fewer low-income students and English Learners than either traditional district or independent charter schools. Latino students and kids with disabilities have also been under-represented at magnets.

“Magnets are meant to serve all of our students, and we want to make sure that they are truly accessible to all kids, especially those with disabilities or those in the process of learning English,” Gonez said. “Getting the data is the first step towards a conversation about how we look at both our magnet accessibility and the ways in which students with high needs may be concentrated at particular schools.”

This resolution directs the district to compile data for high-needs student populations, including "a comparison of the data for students in resident area programs and students in choice programs located on the same school site." It also asks the superintendent to report back to the board with a plan to “ensure greater equity in enrollment.”

 -- Esmeralda Fabian and Jenny Hontz