Thursday, June 22, 2006

CA: Villaraigosa gets his deal

The Mayor of LA, Villaraigosa, in his quest to take over control of the LAUSD, didn't quite get what he wanted when he ran to his pals in the State Legislature but he surely got something. And right now, the only thing clear to me is that he's getting a truckload of good publicity out of this whole thing.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa stepped confidently into a crowded press conference in the Capitol Wednesday to announce a landmark agreement giving him broad authority over the management of the state's largest school district.
The LA Times has a chart (on this refreshing new edblog by LA Time's Bob Sipchen) which gives a few details on what he wanted and what he got instead.

I've been dismayed by his quest to be emperor of the schools. A teacher friend of mine in the LAUSD says there are many other ways of improving LAUSD than Antonio's way, which is by fiat and is all about castrating the elected school board and superintendent. I've had objections as well: a strong mayor system is a key right-wing goal. What the hell is going on with Villaraigosa? Who got to him? My teacher friend also points out this problem when a mayor is emperor: what happens to the school district when Antonio leaves? What if we get someone who is a true Norquist Republican and wants to give it away to the highest bidder?

Now that some of the dust has settled, I think we've got a ton of compromises, guarenteeed to generate tons of feel-good PR for all. You can read some of it in the LAT article if you dare.

My take: I don't like it, and I suspect it'll be worse for the kids in the long run. I think increased diffusion of responsibility, especially with new governing parties introduced into the pot, will make it more difficult to get anything done, this in a system when it already is just about impossible to get things done. The superintendent and the school board, traditionally the two in charge in most school districts, have quite a bit less power and responsibility. In the traditional system, this is where the parents exert pressure.

Having a strong mayor at the top, who has a number of other responsibilities, makes a school district vulnerable to whoever lobbies the mayor, hardly a democratic process. Corporate interests is likely to have more sway while parents will lose out even more.

The deal's done. It looks like to me that this is the first step, there is more dealing in the works, especially if results aren't good. What a winning deal for Villaraigosa.

More here.