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Education policy maven Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute think tank offers straight talk on matters of policy, politics, research, and reform. Read more from this blog.

School & District Management Opinion

Today: L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa on Urban School Reform

By Rick Hess — September 19, 2011 1 min read
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This afternoon, at AEI, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is visiting to discuss the challenges of urban school reform, how to drive school improvement in a time of shrinking revenues, and the lessons he’s learned in office. Villaraigosa, a longtime union organizer and former speaker of the California Assembly, was first elected mayor in 2005 and is now midway through his second term. As mayor, he’s broken some china and earned some scars--and I’m curious to hear what he has to say about all of it. Villaraigosa has been named the “charter dude of the year” by the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools (though, on second thought, that’s probably not the official honorific), and will actually be receiving his award at the end of the event.

L.A. is America’s second largest city and the LAUSD is America’s second largest school district, enrolling nearly 700,000 students and boasting a $7.3 billion dollar budget. Just this past May, schools chief John Deasy stopped by to talk about his efforts. (You can check out the video of that event here.) Deasy described a district wrestling with overcrowding, failing schools; a high school dropout rate of nearly 30 percent; and a massive budget shortfall. In the face of these challenges, Villaraigosa and Deasy have won some impressive plaudits. Just last month, the LA Times wrote, “Villaraigosa has long demonstrated the capacity to think big,” and the Times previously opined, “Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has been a constant salesman on the topic of public schools.” A few years ago, Time magazine named him one of the top 25 most influential Hispanics in America.

Recently named president of the US Conference of Mayors, Villaraigosa is aiming to bring renewed urgency to urban school improvement. He’s said he wants the Conference to take “the lead on the cutting issue of education reform.” The event kicks off at 1:00pm Eastern time today. If you’re in D.C., you can see it live at our digs over at 17th and M. Otherwise, you can catch the livestream here.

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