Back to school

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Having passed the 100-day milestone in his administration, Antonio Villaraigosa has come full circle. At a press conference last week, the mayor stressed one of the key issues that propelled him to office – rescuing the fledgling Los Angeles Unified School District. His words were sharp, and pointed squarely at the district’s long-failing bureaucracy: “We cannot continue to have a district where 53 percent of our students drop out and only 8 percent are proficient in math and education.” He can say that again. It was tough talk about the LAUSD that fueled much of Villaraigosa’s electoral support, just as it had first propelled Bob Hertzberg’s candidacy. For a jaded public that’s grown weary of politicians who speak one way before elections and another after, Villaraigosa’s bold return to this issue was welcome, indeed. This city is ready for serious leadership and comprehensive school reform, but how to do it? There is no one solution, but the answer must be as creative, innovative and as bold as anything the mayor has proposed. So far, Villaraigosa has focused mostly on putting himself in charge of the LAUSD. He’d like to appoint school board members, rather than having them get elected through the big-money, little-interest farcical elections we have now that produce school boards that are fronts for the unions instead of watchdogs for the public. There is, of course, no guarantee that the mayor’s appointees would do any better, but at least if he called the shots, there would be!ital!someone!off! the public could hold accountable at the polls. But the question of overhauling the LAUSD, which began in earnest during Hertzberg’s mayoral bid, must not end with mayoral control. Ultimately, the district’s success is not so much a question of who’s in charge, but who’s involved. Regardless of who makes up the school board, the district must find a way to devolve power to schools, to principals, to teachers and, most of all, to families. Charter schools can play a critical role in this devolution, which is why Villaraigosa has called for the authority to certify charters. Setting up charter schools as quickly as possible, so as to encourage innovation and parental choice, would do wonders to make the LAUSD more personal and dynamic. And if we really want to radically change the LAUSD for the better, then breakup – the issue that launched the current debate – must also be on the table. These are complicated, controversial matters, but ones that Villaraigosa, with his carefully cultivated base of popular support, has the political capital to take on. The promise to restore our schools greatly helped Villaraigosa get elected; delivering on that promise could become his greatest legacy.last_img