When Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa decided to reform his city's schools, he likely didn't know what all he was getting into. An incident last week, when the mayor took a cadre of journalists to visit an L.A. high school and a student spray painted his bus with graffiti, is representative. Already hurt by the drawn-out challenges to his school takeover plan (now languishing in the courts), the mayor is now struggling to get allies elected to the school board. Seeking a friendly majority on the Board of Education, Villaraigosa will have to prevail in two runoff elections in May between his favored candidates and those backed by the L.A. teachers' union, which likes the school system and its governance arrangements just the way they are. As the process drags on, the mayor seems to be making more enemies than friends. Board member Maguerite Poindexter LaMotte, who just won a hard-fought battle against charter school founder and reformer Johnathan Williams, said about working with the mayor, "It's going to take some time for me to be conciliatory." Warning to other would-be "education mayors": fixing schools ain't beanball.
"Villaraigosa's frustration," The Economist, March 8, 2007 (subscription required)
"Battle over L.A. schools shifts to May runoff," by Joel Rubin and Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times, March 8, 2007