ENCINITAS — The San Diego County Board of Education on April 6 held its first public hearing since taking the unprecedented step of assuming control over San Dieguito Union High School District’s redistricting process earlier this month.
The county’s involvement comes several weeks after the district adopted its new electoral map, known as Map 8, which promptly spurred claims of Brown Act violations and a lawsuit alleging violations of both the California Voting Rights Act and state Education Code.
This is the first time the county has taken over a school redistricting process, according to Jennifer Rodriguez, the county’s media strategist.
“Usually, maps are submitted and checked off,” Rodriguez said. “This has been an atypical case.”
County education board members took over the process on April 4 acting as the San Diego County Committee on School District Organization, voting to “adopt a timely and qualified map for the governing board of the San Dieguito Union High School District” by April 30.
“The County Committee became involved because, under Education Code section 5019, it has the authority to develop a timely and qualified map that is consistent with the intent and purpose of the California Voting Rights Act,” Rodriguez wrote in an email. “The Committee is committed to supporting the district in establishing maps that promote political representation of diverse communities, as the CVRA requires.”A majority of the 23 speakers at the hearing supported the county’s involvement in the process and asked for similar map adjustment considerations, such as keeping feeder districts intact and maintaining election cycles, which Map 8 does not do, according to a lawsuit filed by San Diego attorney Corey Briggs.
“When considering which map or maps to focus on, please use a light touch,” a resident said. “Preserve the five elementary school feeder district communities of interest. If possible, also respect the incumbency of seated board members and the current election cycle per trustee area to ensure voters are not disenfranchised.”
Other speakers also called for better protection of minority voters in the district. The lawsuit claims the district’s map “cracks” and “packs” (terms used in cases of gerrymandering) minority voters in the district to give the conservative majority on the board more power.
Specifically, Map 8 divides, or “cracks,” the Hispanic community within the previous map’s Trustee Area 1 and Trustee Area 3 and instead “packs” them into the new Trustee Area 2.
Similarly, the complaint states the map divides the Asian population of the previous Trustee Area 4, instead of packing more White voters into the area, “thereby diluting the influence of the Asian population in future trustee area 4 elections, as previously reported by The Coast News.
The suit also alleges that changes to the numbering of Trustee Area 1 and Trustee Area 2 disenfranchise a significant portion of the school district’s population by not allowing them to vote in board elections until 2024.
“We need to recognize that the (California Voting Rights Act) has greatly expanded the protection of minority voting rights,” another speaker said, addressing the board. “I urge you to pick a map that affords our Hispanic and Asian communities voting rights protections.”
Another resident at the hearing did not support the county’s involvement, arguing the county’s involvement was not justified since the board adopted and submitted the final map by the March 1 deadline.
According to Rodriguez, the district could oppose the county’s final decision on the map, but as of April 6, the school board had not publicly discussed its plan to move forward with the map, according to Board President Maureen “Mo” Muir.
The County Committee on School District Organization will hold two more public hearings on April 13 and April 20.