STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
WORCESTER OFFICIALS and a coalition of voters who filed a federal lawsuit alleging the city’s School Committee structure illegally dilutes the electoral power of communities of color have reached an agreement that would make November’s municipal election the final time the current entirely at-large system is used.
If approved by the judge overseeing the case, the settlement filed jointly Thursday by plaintiffs and the city would require the Worcester City Council to choose one of three alternative school committee election methods by December 7: a six-member district-based system with no at-large seats, a seven-member district system with one at-large seat, or a six-member system with two at-large seats.
Each alternative would feature two majority-minority districts, according to Lawyers for Civil Rights, which has been representing the plaintiffs with attorneys from Brown Rudnick LLP.
All the members of the Worcester School Committee are white, and the plaintiffs in the case Worcester Interfaith v. City of Worcester have pointed to a diverse city and school district, saying communities of color make up almost half Worcester’s population. Last year, 43 percent of Worcester Public School students identified as Hispanic/Latino, and 17 percent as Black or African American.
Lawyers for Civil Rights said the city council approved the filing by an 8-3 vote earlier in the week.
“Although the fact that the vote was not unanimous makes it clear we still have work to do in Worcester, we were pleased by this important step taken by the City Council in voting 8 to 3 to approve the consent decree filed today, which sets forth the three options for incorporating district-based seats on the School Committee,” said Fred Taylor, president of the Worcester branch of the NAACP. “Elected bodies are stronger when they reflect the communities they represent.”
Lowell went through a similar process with Lawyers for Civil Rights and reached a settlement that moved the city away from at-large representation,