Baby steps toward reform

first_imgUNIVERSAL CITY – Moving to fulfill his promise to reform Los Angeles public schools, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Tuesday released his education advisers’ recommendations, which focus on improving the quality of life for the 727,000 students – not seizing political control of the district. Villaraigosa has made education reform one of his top priorities, saying he supports change that could ultimately lead to mayoral control of the Los Angeles Unified School District. But during his speech at the Universal Sheraton, he shied away from issues of authority over schools, talking instead about the need to improve the health and welfare of students. “This is a pathway to reform,” Villaraigosa told business leaders at an education summit sponsored by the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley. “Governance is only one of the issues we have to look at. We also have to look at the causes of why our students are not succeeding.” The mayor’s failure to pursue his promise to seek legal authority to appoint the school board or to take even more dramatic steps left some participants questioning whether the needs of students in the nation’s second-largest school district would be met. Charter school proponents and Los Angeles Unified officials concurred that the only way the district will thrive is if they collaborate on improvement. “The issue of L.A. and the Valley will ultimately depend on our ability to share,” said Bob Collins, the LAUSD’s chief instructional officer of secondary instruction. The mayor did not say what he will do next in pursuing reform other than to work with LAUSD officials, representatives from the 26 cities that are part of the district and others to develop a plan to change how the district operates. “We cannot afford to continue as we are,” Villaraigosa said. “It is the public-education system that created the middle class in this country and made this nation as strong as it is.” Some business leaders at Tuesday’s session said they are prepared to support the mayor’s efforts. “The failure of the education system is our Pearl Harbor of the 21st century,” said attorney David Fleming, chairman of the Economic Alliance. “Employers today cannot find enough qualified applicants to fill the jobs they have available, and we have a 50 percent dropout rate in our schools. This is unacceptable.” District administrators maintain that the dropout rate is 33 percent. School board member Julie Kornstein said she was waiting to see specific proposals from the mayor and others. “What I want to see is something they come up with that will affect how the schools operate,” she said. “So far, I’ve heard a lot of talk, but not seen anything specific.” Rick Orlov, (213) 978-0390 [email protected] RECOMMENDATIONS Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s task force on LAUSD governance made the following recommendations for reforming the district: Make campuses safe. Provide safe passage to and from school. Offer health insurance. Expand before- and after-school programs. Strengthen alliances with parents, teachers and others in the district. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week “What we’re facing is a structural power problem. It won’t work. It’s collapsing under its own weight,” said Bob Hertzberg, former Assembly speaker, who had called for breaking up Los Angeles Unified when he was running for the mayor’s post that Villaraigosa ultimately won. “We have to break out of this large … bureaucratic system.” But Villaraigosa said the success of his plan depends on working within the system, building consensus among all the participants. “We need to get you, the business leaders, behind this,” he said. “The parents, the teachers, the principals, who will be the linchpin for success. It will not be easy. The school board will not like this. The unions won’t like this. They will give you all sorts of arguments for why there shouldn’t be change. But I believe we cannot let the status quo continue. The mayor said he wants to look at all ideas – from small learning communities to charter schools – to effect change. “If you don’t support that, then you aren’t for reform,” he said. last_img read more