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Los Angeles Schools Strongly Opposed to Takeover by Mayor Villaraigosa

There is currently legislation AB 1381 in the state legislature that, if passed, will give the okay to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to take over a subset of the Los Angeles schools. Recently, the mayor’s school reform team announced its latest round of changes to the bill in order to sidestep some possible problems to it passing.

Last month, according to the Los Angeles Times’ August 8, 2006 article, Los Angeles Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry F. Miller made certain speculations about the bill. He believes, if the bill is passed, the following may occur:

• Some power could shift from the City Council to Villaraigosa;
• Additional costs may be incurred by the cities that are served by the Los Angeles schools; and
• These same cities, as well as the Council of Mayors, could incur certain legal liabilities.

Legal responsibilities and costs could shift with the power, since the bill gives responsibility for the subset of Los Angeles schools directly to Villaraigosa, who dominates the Council of Mayors with an 80 percent vote. The Council of Mayors consists of Villaraigosa, representatives from the County Board of Supervisors, and representatives of 27 other cities that are served by the Los Angeles schools.

The recently announced changes to the bill are to placate the officials and representatives of the 27 other cities concerning Miller’s speculations, as well as protect the legislation from being defeated due to criticisms from opponents who are aligned with the Los Angeles schools officials, who are strongly opposed to the takeover.

The new language added to the bill does the following:

• Budget administration for the Los Angeles schools will remain with the City Councils of the cities served by the school district, as it currently stands. This eliminates the possibility of additional costs being incurred by any of the cities served.
• Responsibility for any lawsuits or legal issues will remain with the Los Angeles schools, even though Villaraigosa will be making most of the decisions. This ensures that the County of Los Angeles and the cities involved will be held blameless.
• The takeover of the Los Angeles schools subset is now likened to a school district authorizing a charter school. It is hoped by Villaraigosa’s team that this language will sidestep the state constitution provision that requires public schools to be overseen by established school systems.

Kevin Reed, general counsel for the Los Angeles schools, was quite critical of the bill’s new language, especially concerning legal responsibility. He also said the comparison of Villaraigosa’s takeover to a charter school, which was developed by Villaraigosa’s legal advisor Thomas Saenz, was erroneous. Charter schools submit to more oversight than will Villaraigosa, if the bill becomes law.

Reed also pointed out a conflict of interest for Saenz, who is also an appointed board member of the County Office of Education. A spokesperson for the mayor said Saenz would resign, if the bill becomes law.

Villaraigosa has some backers for his bill, which will soon be reviewed by the legislature. The bill, however, has many questionable provisions in its language and many strongly opposed to it. Opposition comes not only from the Los Angeles schools officials, but also from many of the city representatives on the Council of Mayors, who already see Villaraigosa controlling too much of their concerns.

About the Author: Patricia Hawke is a staff writer for Schools K-12, providing free, in-depth reports on all U.S. public and private K-12 schools. Patricia has a nose for research and writes stimulating news and views on school issues. For more information on Los Angeles schools visit

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