Passage of San Francisco Measure Authorizing Noncitizen Parents to Vote in School Board Elections Spawns Movement in Pasadena

Published : Sunday, November 20, 2016 | 9:49 PM

Passage of a local proposition which allows noncitizen parents to vote in San Francisco school board elections passed earlier this month, and now a new Pasadena organization wants a similar measure for Pasadena.

The group, called Pasadenans Empowering Parental Participation in Educational Governance (PEPPEG), hosts a forum Tuesday night with a voting rights academic to publicly explore the concept.

Already, said a PEPPEG representative, the majority of Pasadena Unified School Board members have endorsed such a charter change for the District, citing support the group said it has garnered from Pat Cahalan, Scott Phelps, Adrienne Mullen and Larry Torres.

PEPPEG advocates that a measure be placed on the November, 2020, general election ballot to change the City of Pasadena Charter to provide for all parents/guardians/custodians of Pasadena Unified students, irrespective of immigration or other status, to have voting rights in Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education elections.

Ron Hayduk, Associate Professor of Political Science San Francisco State University

Tuesday night’s forum will present comments followed by dialogue with guest speaker Professor Ronald Hayduk, who is a Political Science Assoc. Professor at San Francisco State University and the author of a leading academic work on the history of immigrant voting in the U.S. and of the current movements to allow noncitizen parents to vote in school board elections.

Professor Hayduk’s book reports that non-citizen resident voting was the norm in the U.S. until after the Civil War. As a reaction to Reconstruction, efforts to deprive African-Americans freed from slavery the right to vote was extended, Hayduk said, by the same forces to take away voting from immigrants.

PEPPEG is co-chaired by Joanna Amador, Julieta Aragon, Dr. Victor Gonzales.

“I’ve talked to many Latino parents with students in PUSD,” said Pasadena Unified parent Julieta Aragon, “who are concerned about their kids’ education, like my mother was, but still can’t vote for Board of Education members, like my mother couldn’t.”

“A knee-jerk response of some people to the idea of allowing voting by new immigrants who haven’t yet become citizens is that voting is a right for only citizens,” Aragon said. “I’ve been surprised to learn as I’ve looked at the parent-voting issue that, historically, immigrant residents did have the right to vote in elections in the U.S.”

Gonzales said local discussion of noncitizen voting began even before the San Francisco measure was approved.

“We started talking about it in the summer, wondering if it’s something that Pasadena would experience, and we were thinking about how do we go about it and if it’s something worth following up,” Gonzales said. “Then we heard about the San Francisco effort and we decided to go ahead and set it up for discussion.”

Tuesday’s forum would be the first open event where the issue would be discussed extensively, said Gonzales, and where the proponents and opponents could talk through their differences.

The forum will be moderated by Pasadena Star-News Public Editor Larry Wilson.

“This is really just a conversation at this point,” Gonzales said. “Thankfully, though, when we talked to people about it like the board members and others, we’ve been getting good response. At least we can say we’re now looking at hopefully 2020 to be able to put together a proposal to change the charter so that non-citizen parents of students at PUSD would be able allowed to vote for their respective school board members.”

The forum will be presented at the Pasadena Public Library in the Library’s 4th floor Conference Room, at 285 E. Walnut Street in Pasadena, from 6:45 to 8:45 p.m.

For further information, contact Victor Gonzalez, Ed.D. (vgonzalezedd@gmail.com) or 626-817-2582.

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