JUDGE SETS HEARING ON LAUSD CASE BILL COULD BE PUT IN EFFECT PENDING MAYOR'S APPEAL.
A judge who ruled that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's plan to reform Los Angeles public schools was unconstitutional said Wednesday she could decide next week whether the city can implement the law while it appeals her ruling.
The Mayor's Office hopes an appellate court will overturn Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs' Dec. 21 ruling that Assembly Bill 1381 -- the education reform bill signed into law last year -- is unconstitutional.
The law was due to take effect Monday, but the Los Angeles Unified School District filed a lawsuit to block it.
On Wednesday, attorneys for the Mayor's Office argued that the city should be able to implement the law pending a decision by the appellate court.
But L.A. Unified officials, who called the hearing so Janavs could clarify her ruling, said the law should not be allowed to take effect until the courts resolve its constitutionality.
``It would be chaos now to put part of this into effect only to have it possibly overturned later,'' said Kevin Reed, the district's general counsel.
Janavs set a hearing for Jan. 11 to determine whether the city could implement the law or if it would have to wait until an appellate court rules on its constitutionality.
Thomas Saenz, the mayor's chief counsel, said their appeal effectively stayed Janavs' ruling, so AB 1381 essentially took effect Monday. The Mayor's Office has been moving forward as if the law were in effect, he said.
They are hiring an education team and selecting clusters of low-performing schools for the mayor to personally oversee, one of the powers the law specifically grants L.A.'s mayor.
But Villaraigosa is not set to take control of the clusters until July. Under the education reform law, the first major shift in the way the district is governed would be the superintendent assuming greater powers -- those previously held by the school board.
That puts the ball in the court of newly appointed Superintendent David Brewer III, Saenz said.
``It's an unusual situation. We believe the law has taken effect ... and it takes a superintendent who wants that power and authority to test it,'' he said.
Brewer could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but a key aide said too many legal questions remain unanswered for the superintendent to take a decisive step at this stage.
``The superintendent and (school) board can't move forward based on assumptions,'' said Don Davis, Brewer's chief of staff. ``AB 1381 had been ruled unconstitutional. ... Given that, it would not be prudent or responsible for the superintendent to move forward under whatever additional powers AB 1381 purports to give.''
In addition, Villaraigosa attorney Bradley Phillips said he will ask the court to separate from the overall case the provisions in the law dealing with the selection of schools to be run directly by the mayor.
``There are deadlines and milestones within the legislation that must be met in order for this to take effect this school year,'' Phillips argued.
Janavs said she would consider that as a separate item at next week's hearing.
Loyola Law School professor Karl Manheim said until there's a decision by Janavs, both sides are in ``legal limbo.''
``Each side acts at its peril because no matter what they do, the risks are that it turns into nothing at the hearing,'' Manheim said. ``It should have been clear from the get-go, but in the meantime we're in a legal limbo and I wouldn't be advising my client to be taking any expensive steps in the meantime.''