MAYOR CHARTS LAUSD COURSE APPEAL, ELECTION PART OF STRATEGY.
His legal defeat just a day old, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa began his next line of attack Friday to gain partial control of L.A.'s school district, filing an appeal to a judge's ruling against his takeover proposal and beginning his campaign to get the people he wants on the school board.
Besides the appeal, the mayor's attorneys asked a judge to stay the Thursday decision that ruled state Assembly Bill 1381 unconstitutional. The bill would have gone into effect Jan. 1.
But it's Villaraigosa's vow to return to the battleground he knows best -- politics -- by backing his own slate of candidates for the Los Angeles Unified School District board election in March that will continue to give him significant leverage over the district if an appeal fails but his candidates prevail.
With four of seven seats up for grabs, Villaraigosa is in a position to win a majority vote on the board, which means his reform effort could still become a reality, one way or another, said Jaime Regalado, director of the Edmund G. ``Pat'' Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles.
``Even if the mayor loses, in some way he probably will still win if he gets majority support on the school board, which is very likely,'' Regalado said. ``... What the school board doesn't want is to create an enemy in the mayor, who's a force in statewide politics and is going to higher places.
``If he wins a majority on the board, the board will be bending over backwards to try to create some role for the mayor, though it's too soon to tell what that role will be.''
In addition to filing an appeal Friday with the state District Court of Appeal asking for an expedited hearing, legal advisers to the mayor were also considering a request to the state Supreme Court to take up the matter directly.
In the best-case scenario, Thomas Saenz, chief counsel for the mayor, said the appellate justices could hear arguments in January or February. The appeal has been in the works for several days in what Saenz described as ``an abundance of caution'' in preparing for a decision against the mayor.
Saenz said he also will be asking Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs -- who made the Thursday ruling on the grounds that AB 1381 violated the state constitution, the City Charter and voter rights -- to allow the law to go into effect Jan. 1 as the appeals go forward.
The appeal, the school board election and marketing are all part of Villaraigosa's offensive, he said.
``Our strategy has to be this -- we've got to move through the courts, we've got to take this to the ballot box, we've got to continue to win the public opinion about education reform,'' he said. ``... We want fundamental reform, but we can't be afraid to move along one step at a time.''
Meanwhile Friday, both supporters and opponents of the mayor agreed on one truth: AB 1381 opened the dialogue for reforming the behemoth LAUSD.
Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, announced that he will introduce legislation in early January to break up the district into smaller, more accountable and manageable ones.
``I sincerely applaud the mayor in his recognition that LAUSD must be reformed, but I do not feel that mayoral control affords parents and local communities the necessary accountability over their children's education,'' Smyth said. ``Now that the courts have ruled AB 1381 unconstitutional, we must take the momentum generated and put together a viable plan that passes constitutional muster and provides parents and students of Los Angeles the best education possible.''
Other leaders, including United Teachers Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy, said they will not be deterred by the judge's ruling in their push to bring dramatic reforms to the district.
Duffy said his plan is to bring all the interests together, including the school board, the superintendent, the mayor and the union, to determine how to move forward.
Placing low-performing schools into clusters so they could be better monitored has been an idea Duffy has been championing for a year. He said this is something he will continue to pursue, but on a smaller scale than the mayor's plan. He said he will also look to support candidates for the school board who back the idea of greater local control over budget and curriculum at school sites.
``The only relevant issue here is getting all of the people involved to determine what school reform should be about, irrespective of control,'' Duffy said.
Brewer to push ideas
Superintendent David Brewer III said Friday that he's going to push his ``transformation initiatives,'' and that many of his ideas are in line with Villaraigosa's. And regardless of AB 1381, he will continue to hold quarterly meetings with the mayors of all 27 cities the LAUSD serves.
``Politics is always going to be there, but regardless of politics, in the final analysis, we usually get it right,'' Brewer said. ``The process has already started. Change is coming. I will not accept the status quo, and the board knows that.''
Prior to the court ruling, Villaraigosa had repeatedly urged the district to drop its lawsuit challenging AB 1381 to prevent a prolonged legal battle that would get in the way of reform.
Now, others are calling for the mayor to end his effort to assume partial control of the schools.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, released a statement Friday calling the judge's ruling that AB 1381 is unconstitutional a ``victory for educational integrity.''
``A Villaraigosa school takeover would have been risky, chaotic and ultimately open the schools to contentious political control,'' he said. ``Mayor Villaraigosa should scrap plans to appeal the decision and put an end to his failed and flawed effort to control the schools and do what he was elected and paid to do, namely, improve the quality of life in L.A. That is more than a full-time job.''
When the ruling was announced Thursday, Monica Garcia, the sole Villaraigosa supporter on the school board, said she'd like to see the district still move to create the three clusters of lowest-performing schools Villaraigosa had proposed to oversee.
The key is to make members of the public understand that it's important who they choose to serve on the school board, since the decisions they make have consequences to the communities, she said.
If the district does not commit to an action plan for change, partnership and transparency, leadership for reform can come from the school board, she said.
``I think there are going to be candidates that challenge the existing system,'' Garcia said, specifically citing Yolie Flores Aguilar, who's running for the open seat that will be vacated by incumbent David Tokofsky. ``The current board or the board after March 6, 2007, will have a strong voice in whether or not we engage in (clusters and) ... partnerships with City Hall and the business communities like we haven't seen.
``The question is, Are we bold ... or are we patient?''
Staff Writer Rick Orlov contributed to this report.
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Dec 23, 2006|
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