School & District Management

Calif. Lawmakers Grant L.A. Mayor Partial Control Over School System

By Lesli A. Maxwell — August 30, 2006 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa yesterday won final approval from California lawmakers to take partial control over his city’s sprawling school system. The plan would give him considerable sway over the hiring of the superintendent, but falls short of the strong mayoral control in cities like New York City and Chicago.

Assemblyman Dario Frommer, D-Glendale, left, and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, watch as the votes are posted on Nunez's measure, to give Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa greater control over the Los Angeles Unified School District, during the Assemby session held at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2006.

The quasi-takeover of the nation’s second-largest school district, packaged as state legislation that bypasses local voters, also would give the mayor direct authority over a cluster of low-performing schools. The mayor has relentlessly cited the district’s high school dropout rate—a figure he believes is as high as 50 percent—as a moral imperative to reform the 727,000-student district.

“Make no mistake, this is a milestone that comes but once in a generation,” Mayor Villaraigosa said in a written statement issued late on Aug. 29. “We have brought parents, teachers, and community leaders together around the idea that we can and must do better for our children.”

In a 42-20 vote, the state Assembly, the legislature’s lower house, backed the mayor’s reform plan. It now goes to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has said he will sign the measure. The state Senate had approved the bill on Aug. 28, in a 23-14 vote.

Officials of the Los Angeles Unified School District, who battled to defeat the bill, will likely challenge the measure’s constitutionality—particularly the provision that gives the mayor direct control over three of the city’s worst high schools and the middle and elementary schools that feed them.

‘Not a Failing District’

Superintendent Roy Romer, who is preparing to step down in September after six years, fought hard against the plan and used his last chance to plead with lawmakers on Aug. 29 to reject the mayor’s proposal.

Mr. Romer, who served three terms as Colorado governor before accepting the Los Angeles job in 2000, reminded lawmakers that test scores in the district had risen steadily during his tenure and that an historic, $19 billion construction program to build 150 new schools was being well managed.

“That’s not a failing district,” Mr. Romer told members of the Assembly’s education committee. “Why do you want to yank the rug out from under us now?”

Mayor Villaraigosa, a Democrat who has spent much of his first year in office campaigning for reform in his city’s schools, would share much of his authority with a council of mayors representing the 26 other cities that lie within the boundaries of the district. His plan empowers the superintendent to manage most of the contracting, budgeting, and hiring in the district, while keeping the elected school board responsible for collective bargaining, a concession the mayor offered to win support from teacher unions.

The mayor and his supporters scheduled a celebration of the bill’s victory in the legislature for Aug. 30 at a south Los Angeles charter high school.


Teaching Webinar Examining the Evidence: What We’re Learning From the Field About Implementing High-Dosage Tutoring Programs
Tutoring programs have become a leading strategy to address COVID-19 learning loss. What evidence-based principles can district and school leaders draw on to design, implement, measure, and improve high-quality tutoring programs? And what are districts
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management What the Research Says Q&A: How Can High Schools Continue to Improve Now?
The way to do it, says researcher Robert Balfanz, is to dig beneath the averages to find real solutions to schools' thorny problems.
6 min read
Conceptual illustration of students making choices based on guidance.
Viktoria Kurpas/iStock
School & District Management Opinion It Isn’t White Supremacy for Principals to Expect Staff to Be on Time
Leaders can be sensitive to families’ different rhythms and challenges without dismissing basic professional norms.
2 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School & District Management Polls About Lessons on Racism in Schools Can Be Eye-Opening, and Misleading
Opinion surveys may help district leaders host more-productive conversations, but how they're framed can lead to wildly different results.
11 min read
Hand holding smartphone with voting app. Online voting with mini people concept flat vector illustration with smartphone screen, voting box and voters making decisions.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
School & District Management Pandemic-Seasoned Principals Share Hard-Earned Leadership Lessons
The COVID crisis has tested principals’ resolve to an unprecedented degree, but many have gleaned valuable takeaways from the experience.
6 min read
Boat on the water with three people inside. Leader pointing  forward. In the water around them are coronavirus pathogens.
iStock/Getty Images Plus