Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Education leaders divulge what they want from LA's next mayor

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In his final State of the City address this week, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa challenged the candidates hoping to succeed him — Eric Garcetti and Wendy Gruel — to make education a priority.

Ever since, there’s been a lot of talk about what the next mayor of Los Angeles should do for public education. KPCC talked to three leaders in the education field about what they expect from the city’s next leader.

The mayor of Los Angeles doesn’t control the public school system or have any formal role in the Los Angeles Unified District. But, whoever is elected in May will have something that most stakeholders lack.

"Clearly, the mayor often has a platform that many folks that are involved in education do not have," said Elise Buik, president of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles. 

Buik wants the school district to replicate high-performance schools and transform low-performing schools more quickly.

“A mayor really sets the priorities of a community and I think that’s an important element," she said. "Mayor Villaraigosa would use any tool at his disposal to do what was right for kids and I think the next mayor needs to continue that legacy."

In his first term, Villaraigosa unsuccessfully tried to take control of LA Unified, but he did create the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. The nonprofit manages 22 of the city’s lowest performing schools. Marshall Tuck is the Partnership’s CEO. If he were moderating a debate between Garcetti and Greuel, he said he would pose a broader question about education.

"I would ask, 'What is your vision for our school system?' One: where are we now? I want to make sure they have a good sense of the current performance of the students in our school district today," he said.

"Two: where do they directionally see things going for our young people? And then I would push very hard: 'What are you going to do specifically to make that happen?'"

Eight years ago, then-State Senator Gloria Romero authored a bill that would have allowed L.A.’s mayor to appoint members to the school board. Romero is now the California director of Democrats for Education Reform. She wants the next mayor to support parent trigger rules, which allow parents to change the administration of a failing school. And rather than overseeing a few campuses, Romero wants the next mayor to create an Office of City Schools.

"Basically this office would be charged with the responsibility of providing each city school their academic dashboard," Romero said. "Information on their academic achievement and also whether or not these schools are eligible, qualified for transformation. For example, under parent trigger law or other types of open enrollment."

Wendy Greuel spoke at Granda Hills Charter High School Thursday and outlined her platform for education reform. Here are her remarks, as prepared for delivery: 

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