Antonio – hands off the schools

first_imgThe proposed Council of Mayors would have been a total disaster. It would have opened school district management to political jockeying by Villaraigosa and the other mayors to get their handpicked choices into the supervisory spot and, ultimately, other school management positions. The plan was so vague, and so muddled, that it gave credence to the school board’s charge that the mayor’s takeover plan was nothing more than a crude ego-driven power play. It would have been much more credible and less messy if Villaraigosa had simply done what his predecessors, Mayor Richard Riordan and James Hahn, did. Riordan dumped money into school board races to elect people who shared his vision of school improvement. He aggressively lobbied state and federal officials for more money for school improvements. Hahn pushed hard to expand L.A.’s BEST after-school program and got several million dollars in funding for the program. Riordan and Hahn’s efforts at reform did not magically transform L.A.’s ailing schools into shining fonts of learning. But they did show that Los Angeles mayors could make a difference in the fight for school excellence without resorting to ham-handed interference. They also showed that they could be partners rather than adversaries with the LAUSD. But Villaraigosa is not interested in a partnership. He repeatedly claimed that big-city mayors do a better job of running poor urban school districts than elected boards, though the reviews of mayor-run school districts have been mixed. Now with an imminent court defeat staring him in the face, Villaraigosa can still play a major role in helping the district turn things around. He can turn his office into a bully pulpit and use his considerable political muscle to prod and cajole the state Legislature and Schwarzenegger to increase funding for reading, math, after-school programs and nutrition programs, and to beef up counseling and violence-prevention programs. He should tap his bigwig corporate donors to put their money into innovative school programs rather than plow it into his political war chest to meddle with the board. He can also keep his pledge to work closely with LAUSD Superintendent David Brewer III to implement the checklist of programs that Brewer’s outlined. Brewer has spent weeks visiting schools, listening to parents and teachers tell of their needs and problems. He has a far better understanding of what it takes to make change than Villaraigosa. Meanwhile, the mayor should backpedal fast from politicizing the May school board run-off election. Finally, the mayor should do what he’s paid to do, and that’s make L.A. a safer and better place to live. That entails police reform, the expansion of the Los Angeles International Airport, empowering neighborhood councils, improving homeless services, traffic relief and economic development. These are problems that require much greater attention from the mayor than the schools do. We’d all be better off if he gave them that attention. And, frankly, so would he. Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst and a frequent contributor to Viewpoint. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! At first glance, it seemed strange that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa would reach out to a school board member whom he had tried to oust from office by bankrolling his opponent. But that’s exactly what he did March 6 when he called school board member Jon Lauritzen after the election. His call to Lauritzen could be viewed as a common courtesy gesture from one elected official to another. It could have been a tactical political move to soften up Lauritzen, even though he faces a tough May runoff fight against Villaraigosa’s candidate, Tamar Galatzan. Or, more cynically, it was recognition by Villaraigosa that an appeals court will probably uphold the lower-court ruling that vetoed the mayor’s school takeover bid. If that happens, Villaraigosa will have to do more than just pay lip service to working with the school board. He’ll have to do it. If he had done so in the first place, it would have saved months of finger-pointing, name-calling and blame-swapping. It also would have saved the millions squandered on lawsuits, court actions and politicking. From the beginning, the takeover plan was a hastily tossed-together mishmash of programs and ideas that the school board had either implemented or was considering in some form. last_img

Post A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *