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MAYOR Antonio Villaraigosa put efforts to reform Los Angeles Unified schools on hold to push for yet another $4 billion in bond money without exacting any public commitment from officials to actually change the system.

Although Los Angeles voters rejected everything else on the Tuesday ballot, they supported Measure Y. The next day, with money safely in the hands of LAUSD officials, Villaraigosa challenged Los Angeles business leaders to back him as he storms the barricades to free students from a mediocre educational system. Uneducated kids won't do much to help the economy grow in the future, after all.

It's certainly the right message and long overdue. Villaraigosa campaigned heavily on reforming the school district despite the fact that currently the City Charter doesn't give the mayor authority over the schools. That evidently struck a chord with parents, because Villaraigosa won by a landslide in May.

But after that, not much more than an odd peep about the schools.

It seems clear now that Villaraigosa was keeping his school criticisms to himself until after Tuesday's election. No sense in interfering with the LAUSD's attempt at a fourth building bond. School officials are already a bit testy about the mayor's interest in their operations. But now that the bond's a done deal, hopefully Villaraigosa will take off the gloves.

Unfortunately, it's not all that clear that Villaraigosa now has any leverage to pressure the establishment or even a concrete plan. As usual his rhetoric is light, preferring to be terribly oblique on the details than to stake out his turf and make a stand.

The mayor told the business leaders on Wednesday that he has a tentative timetable for his plan, but he wouldn't reveal either when or what. He has put together an advisory panel to explore all options. But all the advisory panels in the world don't mean squat if there's no political will to get it done.

This renewal of the commitment to school reformation is a good sign, but it will be little more than that until Villaraigosa follows it up with an plan of action. We're all waiting.
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Title Annotation:Editorial
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Nov 11, 2005
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