LOS ANGELES, CA – The Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) must change the way it elects members to its Board of Trustees or face legal action, according to MALDEF.
On Friday, MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) warned LACCD officials that the current at-large system used to elect the seven-member Board of Trustees violates the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 by diluting the Latino vote and preventing Latino voters from electing candidates of their choice to serve on the board, according to a letter sent to LACCD Chancellor Francisco C. Rodriguez.
“Community colleges are critical to the success of our state’s future, which will need a college-educated workforce and leadership,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. “Governance of such critical higher education institutions should reflect the entire community served.”
The letter follows an investigation by MALDEF attorneys who found the district’s at-large system has resulted in severe underrepresentation of Latino residents on the board.
“Fifty-six percent of the student enrollment in LACCD is Latino, yet Latino families and voters are denied an equal opportunity to elect representatives who make crucial decisions concerning the district,” said Matthew Barragan, a staff attorney with MALDEF. “Under the current at-large election system, the Board is neither inclusive nor representative.”
Latinos constitute 36 percent of the citizen voting-age population of the LACCD, according to the U.S. Census. Yet, there is only one Latino currently serving on the seven-member board.
Other community college districts have faced similar legal challenges in recent years, including Compton Community College District, Cerritos Community College District, and Santa Clarita Community College District. All three districts have now adopted district-based election systems.
LACCD is the nation’s largest community college district, with nine campuses; it offers educational opportunities to students in 40 cities and communities covering an area of more than 882 square miles, including the entire city of Los Angeles, as well as other areas such as Alhambra, Monterey Park, and the unincorporated areas of East Los Angeles, Athens, and Walnut Park.
A copy of the letter can be viewed HERE.