(photo credit: Teddy James)
There’s nothing like starting off a new year with a big bang. That’s exactly what one California Assemblywoman is doing by introducing her first piece of legislation for the year.
“This is common sense legislation and it’s past due,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of the 80th District.
The legislation bans School and College District superintendents and administrators from raising campaign cash for the board members they serve.
“It happens to be the number one issue I receive phone calls about in the district.”
Under the legislation, administrators at any state public school district and community college districts will be prohibited from soliciting contributions on behalf of the campaigns and legal defense funds of candidates and incumbent board members that govern those districts.
Offenders would be subject to penalties handed down by the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission.
If you don’t believe this is an issue, think again. It happened in the Assemblywoman’s district.
“We looked at the three schools that it happened in—Sweetwater School District, Southwestern Community College, San Ysidro School District—and it was all around the same time,” she said. “And the common theme between these scandals was a superintendent or a district administrator who was somehow using their authority while they were issuing contracts on various projects and going to those same people and raising money for the school board members.”
But here’s the thing—this practice is legal—and in the South Bay in San Diego, superintendents were raising a lot of money, about $15,000.
“It just doesn’t make a lot of sense for the people, who are in charge of these contracts, to be raising money for the people who are bidding on these contracts, in order to keep their school board members happy.”
Gonzalez said this practice creates a dynamic “where we’re not sure the school board is accountable to the superintendent or the other way around.”
Who knows if this is going on in other districts throughout the state, but Gonzalez hopes to prevent it from happening.
“The kind of scandals that we’re seeing in the South Bay, when you have 17 people indicted, within three school districts that overlap, it becomes quite a distraction; I just don’t want others to face the same situation,” said the Assemblywoman. “I’d rather just do away with the practice in order to make it more accountable, more transparent and clear that who’s in charge of a school district is the school board. And the superintendent and administrators should be fulfilling their policy wishes.”
Schools and Community Colleges are places of learning, no questions about it. It’s time they focus on that.
“We need schools to worry about educating our children and we need parents to be involved in that process and have some faith the superintendent and the administrators are simply doing their jobs in ensuring our kids in our schools and community colleges are being adequately served.”