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The Politics of Latino Education: The Biases of At-Large Elections


David L. Leal is assistant professor of government, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712-1087, ( Valerie Martinez-Ebers is associate professor of political science, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, TX 76129, ( Kenneth J. Meier is Charles Puryear Professor of Liberal Arts and professor of political science, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-4348, (


This paper investigates the determinants and consequences of Latino political representation in the field of K-12 education. The first task is to examine the association between Latino population and the Latino presence on school boards. We then investigate if Latino representation is affected by the electoral structure of school boards, as scholars have reached differing conclusions on whether at-large and ward systems hinder or enhance minority descriptive representation. The next step examines the consequences of Latino representation, specifically whether board membership is associated with the share of Latino school administrators and teachers. The regression results show that Latino population positively affects Latino board representation, but that at-large systems hinder descriptive representation. The primary determinant of Latino administrators is Latino school board membership, and the primary determinant of Latino teachers is Latino administrators. In sum, at-large elections negatively influence Latino educational representation, which produces a ripple effect that ultimately reduces the share of Latino teachers.