On March 1 in the nation’s capital, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa asked U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to empower school districts in large cities like L.A., New York and Chicago to apply for Race to the Top grants. The federal grants are designed to encourage states and reward states who are making strides in education reform.
“We need flexibility, we need accountability,” Villaraigosa said. “We ‘re willing to tie money to success in our schools, but when our states aren’t aggressively going after these dollars, when they’ve failed to challenge a broken system in the way that they have, then it’s important that we bill directly with the federal government.”
Villaraigosa and Duncan, along with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and their Superintendents, John Deasy, Dennis Walcott, and Jean-Claude Brizard, were hosting a forum entitled, “Education Now: Cities at the Forefront of Reform” in Washington, DC.
Secretary Duncan and local leaders discussed a variety of issues including accountability, school management, strengthening the teaching profession, and the importance of school leadership.
In addition, the mayors and education officials highlighted efforts to expand access to a high-quality education and improve student outcomes in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. In requesting access to the federal programs, as well as a waiver from No Child Left Behind restrictions, Villaraigosa pointed out that L.A., Chicago and New York each have their own school governance structures, and that “mayors must engage in education issues because the health of a city is undeniably linked to the health of its schools.”
The move could potentially put Los Angeles in competition with the state of California for federal funds.
Next week, the Mayor will be back in DC with 200 L.A. business leaders. The big message then will be congressional passage of the transportation bill that includes the America Fast Forward loan program, which would allow localities to accelerate transportation projects.
Villaraigosa said he’s optimistic the bill will pass through Senate, but the issue is the House of Representatives. He went on to say that the bill shouldn’t be a partisan issue.
“The fact is we can put 3 million people back to work if we pass this surface transportation bill. The fact is that people on both sides on the aisle historically have gotten behind the idea that investing in infrastructure, in our roads, in our highways, in our public transportation ... that’s not partisan. That’s something that we know is important to our economic competitiveness. My hope is the House will agree to the Senate version,” he said.
Do you agree with the mayor’s education proposal? Should L.A. be able to apply for federal education grants? What else is the mayor accomplishing on the Hill today?
Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of the City of Los Angeles
Watch a video of the "Education Now: Cities at the Forefront of Reform" forum: