This ain’t your grandfather’s Compton anymore. (Photo Credit: Los Angeles Public Library)
One of the positive by-products of transparent government is that people can ensure that they know what is going on in their government. The end result should, theoretically, be better public policy. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? That’s why California Forward is devoting so much time and space to promoting transparency. We believe an open government helps create a more accountable government.
Some California cities and school districts are showing leadership in transparency. A recent video story from Vallejo we produced showed how the city’s residents are involved in making direct decisions about how to spend sales tax revenue. This public participation idea was worth promoting given that Vallejo is a city that once declared bankruptcy and now serves as an example of good governance.
In Compton, a city that also has had a colorful past when it comes to government accountability, the school board recently took a different twist on transparency. Like the city of Vallejo, the Compton School Board has taken government to the people.
It was the brainchild of Board President Micah Ali, who in December established new Board committees where parents and other residents directly participated in fact finding and policy making.
“Some elected officials find it inconvenient when the public gets involved in policymaking,” President Ali remarked. “The way I see it, you get the best feedback and ideas from the stakeholders of the community.”
Compton has seven elected School Board members who are responsible for keeping tabs on District operations and programs. During his first term, Ali relied on community members to contact him whenever an issue of importance to them arose. When he was re-elected, he took the idea of reaching out into the community to the Board
“Not everyone feels comfortable about speaking to an elected official,” said Ali. “So I thought we should literally seek people out. The results, so far, are promising.”
There are five committees: Facilities and Construction, Instructional Excellence and Community Engagement, Innovation and Efficiency, District Administration and Accountability and Redistricting. Each committee posts a public agenda and provides a full opportunity for community member attendance and participation.
“It’s actually making the governing process better. People who attend School Board meeting are often better informed on the topics before the meeting,” said Ali. “Our schools are getting better and students are returning to the Compton Schools from other neighboring districts in part because people feel like they have a real say in how their schools are run.”
The head of the Compton PTA thinks this idea is a key to more parental involvement.
“Parents in Compton, like parents everywhere, want their schools to be better. The idea of taking the big issues that face our schools to the community and actively engaging parents and residents is a great idea,” said Frederick Trahan, Compton Council PTA President. “This type of access to Board members can help continue the dramatic improvement of our schools.”
As Compton continues to develop this process with their citizens, we will keep you apprised of progress they are making.