LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Los Angeles mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel laid out her education platform today, declaring in a speech at a San Fernando Valley high school that she would “commit to being the education reform mayor.”
Speaking at Granada Hills Charter High School, Greuel said she would make “transforming our public schools” the “centerpiece” of her administration.
Her statements came a day after she challenged her rival Eric Garcetti to an impromptu debate on education. The Garcetti campaign, which had a conflicting event, quickly dismissed the challenges as a “political stunt.”
Both Greuel and Garcetti were criticized earlier this week by outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for not making education a bigger part of their campaigns.
Unlike mayors in Chicago and New York, the mayor of Los Angeles has no formal role in running the Los Angeles Unified School District and cannot directly effect education policy.
Villaraigosa made a failed attempt to take over the school district earlier in his tenure, eventually setting up Partnership for L.A., a non-profit organization that now runs 22 schools in the district.
Greuel said today she would stand behind “parent trigger,” a mechanism put in place by a 2010 state law that allows parents to petition to take over a chronically low-performing and replace its teachers and administrators.
Since the trigger law went into effect, parents have attempted to take over schools in the Compton and Adelante districts, only to become entangled in legal fights.
This year, parents at the LAUSD’s 24th Street Elementary School used the parent trigger law to take over the school with the blessing of the district’s board and superintendent.
“This is progress,” Greuel said. “This is putting our students first.”
Greuel said she would also push for a comprehensive teacher and principal evaluation system that would make firing under-performing teachers easier and give support to effective teachers and principals.
“We know that the single most important factor to a child’s academic success is a quality teacher,” Greuel said, adding that she wants a “meaningful evaluation system that is fair and uses multiple measurements — including students’ test scores and in-class observations.”
She added she would work with LAUSD’s superintendent John Deasy to create a training program to better prepare teachers and principals as leaders, expand the after-school program L.A.’s BEST that she said she started with Mayor Tom Bradley 25 years ago, and improve students’ safety on their way to school.
She also called for the next city controller to audit LAUSD to “slash non-school site administrative expenses and put those dollars where the kids are.”
Greuel said she would use the mayor’s position as a “bully pulpit” to put forth a “Bill of Rights” that includes protecting students’ physical safety and emotional well being, arts education programs and a curriculum that trains students for the workplace.
Garcetti’s spokesman Jeff Millman, responding to the earlier challenge to an education debate, said their campaign would work with Greuel’s to set up an education-focused debate in May. He said Garcetti has accepted an invitation from the Urban League and public radio station KCRW to debate education policy with Greuel, though it was unclear if that debate would cover other subjects as well.
Millman said Garcetti wants to improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics education as well as career training for Los Angeles students, use city money to build facilities that can be used by both residents and the schools, and would “fight for more funding for LAUSD schools.”
Garcetti, in response to an endorsement from San Fernando Valley area school board member Tamar Galatzan, recently said he would “fight to make sure every L.A. child gets an education that leads to college or a career.”
Greuel’s preoccupation with education this week also comes as she is surrounding herself and her campaign with individuals who have been known to push for changes in LAUSD’s teacher hiring policies.
Last month, Greuel named as an economic adviser for her campaign former Mayor Richard Riordan who this week called the LAUSD a “bureaucratic mess” in which “principals have no power to hire or fire teachers.”
Greuel also switched out her campaign manager, replacing Rose Kapolczynski with Villaraigosa staffer Janelle Erickson, who had just come off a stint running the independent expenditure group Coalition for School Reform.
Erickson directed an effort to finance candidates who support teacher evaluations and reforming the teacher firing process. Among the donors to the super PAC was New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who gave $1 million to back a slate of candidates that included School Board President Monica Garcia.
In a letter challenging Garcetti’s campaign to an education debate yesterday, Greuel spokeswoman Shannon Murphy suggested that Garcetti tap as a co-moderator UTLA president Warren Fletcher. Greuel’s campaign had already secured Garcia to serve as their moderator in yesterday’s debate.
Garcetti is endorsed by the teacher’s union, which has been at odds with Deasy, the district’s superintendent, who is pushing to incorporate standardized test scores into teacher evaluations, with the union casting ballots to decide if they would render a “no-confidence vote” the superintendent’s performance. Fletcher is expected to announce the union members’ decisions at a news conference later this afternoon.
Garcetti and Greuel have an opportunity spar on education and other topics at their first mayoral debate of the general election, hosted tonight at the American Jewish University and to be aired on ABC7.
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