Friday, July 28, 2006

L.A. Mayor continues to work for take over of schools

The mayor of Los Angeles continues to make taking over of the public schools a priority even though he has not done the other things available to him to approve schools, such as limiting gang activity and securing adequate funding.
See other opinions on the takeover plans.

L.A. Mayor Grilled Over School Takeover Plan
400 residents and officials of smaller cities under Los Angeles Unified rule express their concerns at a public hearing.
By Howard Blume
Times Staff Writer

July 28, 2006

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's school reform plan received its first and only local public vetting Thursday evening in a sometimes raucous hearing where Los Angeles residents addressed state lawmakers, who will have the final say.

Perhaps the most significant blow was landed by officials from neighboring cities, who announced their opposition to legislation that would give Villaraigosa substantial authority over the Los Angeles Unified School District. Parts or all of the cities fall within the boundaries of the Los Angeles school system.

The early evening gathering, convened by state Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg (D-Los Angeles), played out before an audience of more than 400 people, some of them recruited for the event, and undecided parents and community members at Washington Irving Middle School north of downtown.

The worst moment for Villaraigosa probably occurred before the hearing, at a news conference called by officials who said they represented the perspective of the cities other than Los Angeles that are within the boundaries of the L.A. school system.

A small retinue of council members and mayors announced, one after another, their view that Villaraigosa's plan gave the L.A. mayor authority at their expense.

"Mayor Villaraigosa is good for the city of Los Angeles, but not for the city of San Fernando," said San Fernando Councilwoman Maribel De La Torre.

Villaraigosa's plan would supplant key functions of the elected Board of Education with a council of mayors, but he would control 80% of the vote because 80% of L.A. Unified students live in Los Angeles. Earlier in the day, his aides had argued that the neighboring cities still would be getting a better deal than they currently have: The latest version of the legislation, unveiled today, offers cities in southeast Los Angeles County an opportunity to take direct control of some of their schools — an option that some of the city officials had not yet seen.

"We are just not going to have any meaningful say and we are not interested in that kind of plan," said Benjamin "Frank" Venti, a Monterey Park city councilman who is also president of the Independent Cities Assn.

"Not one of the 27 cities said they oppose our position" in opposition to Villaraigosa's legislation, said West Hollywood Councilman Jeffrey Prang, who also represents the California Contract Cities Assn. "It's unanimous."

At Irving Middle School, camera crews left the city officials when the telegenic Villaraigosa arrived, flanked by state Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles), state Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) and L.A. Unified school board member Monica Garcia. All support Villaraigosa's reform plan.
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