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National School Boards Take Stand Against Mayoral Control of Districts

April 08, 2006|Joel Rubin and Duke Helfand | Times Staff Writers

A national education group voiced strong opposition Friday to the idea of a mayor taking over a school district -- something Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has vowed to do.

The 145-member assembly of the National School Boards Assn. unanimously passed a resolution calling on mayors to focus on non-education issues that affect students -- such as housing and healthcare -- instead of fighting for control of schools.

"There is important work for [mayors] to do. It is not as glamorous or headline-grabbing as taking over a school board or appointing the superintendent, but it is important," said Scott Plotkin, executive director of the California School Boards Assn., which sponsored the motion.

In making its case to the national body, the California contingent criticized Villaraigosa's campaign to take control of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Janelle Erickson, the mayor's spokeswoman, dismissed the vote's significance.

"This is akin to politicians coming out against term limits -- it's not a surprise," she said. "Decisions about public schools should be made by local stakeholders -- teachers, parents, students and the surrounding community.

"There is no single solution that will work for every city and state, and the National School Board Assn. shouldn't presume to dictate what makes sense for Los Angeles' schools," Erickson said.

Also on Friday, association members representing the country's largest urban school districts took a harsher stance against Villaraigosa. Brian Perkins, president of the New Haven, Conn., Board of Education, said the group passed a second resolution opposing the mayor.

"There is no reasoning whatsoever to justify what he is trying to do," Perkins said.

Perkins and other association members said a Villaraigosa takeover would do little to help L.A. Unified, which has made steady progress in student performance in recent years. It is a district, they added, that is in much better shape than others, such as Chicago, where a takeover helped prevent financial collapse.

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