Mayor plans education focus for State of the City speech

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Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaks at the launch of the unaffiliated political organization known as No Labels December 13, 2010, at Columbia University in New York City. Villaraigosa delivers his annual State of the City speech today.

Although the mayor of Los Angeles has no formal role in education, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will focus on education during his annual State of the City speech Wednesday at Jefferson High School.

Villaraigosa is expected to unveil new plans to “engage in more aggressive (education) reforms to give students and parents more and better choices,'' an aide said.

Villaraigosa is also expected to discuss the city's budget crisis, his transportation initiatives and public safety.

Villaraigosa said he chose Jefferson High School as the site for his speech because it is an example of a school that has made a significant turnaround through the Public School Choice program he supports.

The program, which began in 2009, identifies the city's Los Angeles Unified School District's lowest performing schools for targeted improvement plans that include installing new leadership.

Villaraigosa said he visited Jefferson High School shortly after being elected in 2005 when a series of racially motivated fights brawls broke out at the school.

“Students and teachers were left disheartened and demoralized, and I left Jefferson with a rekindled commitment to our city's underserved schools and students,'' Villaraigosa said in a video posted on his YouTube channel.

Villaraigosa said Jefferson High School has become a safer campus and its API score — a statewide measure of school performance — rose 33 points since going through Public School Choice. He plans to use Jefferson as an argument for expanding the program.

Villaraigosa has made education one of his priorities since taking office. His education goals include changing or reconstituting low-performing schools, giving parents a greater voice in their children's education, building partnerships and creating strong, high-performing schools committed to measurable progress that enable every student to receive a high-quality education that will prepare them for careers.

Villaraigosa also operates the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, an independent educational nonprofit group that operates in partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The partnership works with the district in efforts to transform teaching and learning at its 21 schools so all students have the foundation for academic excellence and personal success.

In an effort to have his educational goals come to fruition, Villaraigosa has backed school board candidates who defeated opponents supported by United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing the district's teachers.

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