Mayor paints dire school picture

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl event160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Taking his case for controlling Los Angeles Unified to a statewide group of educators, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Monday the public school system is in a state of crisis that threatens the city’s economic future. “If Los Angeles is going to become the Venice of the 21st Century – the center of trade and commerce – we need to make sure our kids get a good education,” Villaraigosa told 300 teachers and administrators on the first day of a three-day education conference at the downtown Omni Hotel. “If we don’t, we will not be able to compete for the companies we need to create good, high-paying jobs. If we don’t take care of this generation, they won’t take care of the next generation. They won’t take care of us.” The conference, sponsored by the Education Trust-West, is exploring the achievement gap in California schools and looking for ways to improve student test scores. Since taking office in July, Villaraigosa has made education a leading priority – boosting funding for after-school programs and proposing mayoral control of the nation’s second-largest district. “I think this district needs someone who is accountable for its performance,” he said. “People here can name the last four mayors, but can you name the last four school boards? “When you have to go before the voters every four years and ask for their votes, you are going to care how the schools are doing in your city.” Villaraigosa said he remains concerned about student test scores as well as the dropout rate, which various experts estimate is anywhere from 22 to nearly 50 percent. “We have a system where 13 percent of our students are reading at grade level and 11 percent are at grade level in math,” Villaraigosa said. “What does the district propose? It says it can improve 2 percent a year. “Well, folks, in a class of 30, that’s one student. By the time they reach their goal, it will be 2045 and too late.” Superintendent Roy Romer, who was in the audience during Villaraigosa’s speech, disputed the mayor’s arguments. “I think, what you’re seeing, is the mayor is being very selective with his facts,” said Romer, who is fighting Villaraigosa’s takeover effort. “The fact is, this school district has been on the largest building program ever performed by a school district. We have built more schools than any one else. “And, our test scores are improving at every level and have been for several years.” Romer – who has announced he will retire this year from his $250,000-a-year post – also defended the administration of the district, saying it has fewer bureaucrats than districts in New York and Chicago, which are under mayoral control. But Villaraigosa countered that the district has failed children and parents and needs to change – particularly to reduce the number of dropouts. “There is a direct correlation between the number of dropouts and the number of people on Death Row,” Villaraigosa said. “There is also a correlation between a good education and high-paying jobs.” The mayor also told the group he is continuing to press for an independent audit of the LAUSD – something district officials have opposed – and might ask the state Legislature to authorize such a review. Romer said the district has an independent financial audit under way by KPMG and is getting set for a study authorized by the district’s recent contract with the United Teachers Los Angeles. He said he would welcome input from Villaraigosa and other officials on areas to be reviewed. [email protected] (213) 978-0390last_img read more