Saenz left MALDEF to join the mayor's team last year, in part because of his concern for students. "I agree with the mayor when he says this is the civil rights issue of the 21st century," he says. Saenz supports the mayor's efforts to seize control of the educational hierarchy because he believes it's the only way to shake the status quo out of its stupor. "The key," he says, "is strong leadership and accountability, a clear message.... Not just that you want to change the culture but that it will change."
When Reed began working for the district, he was shocked, he says, and wouldn't have stayed if things hadn't changed.
But as he worked with former Supt. Roy Romer's team to push through bond measures, and saw new campuses rising in poor and minority areas as a result, he began to believe that systemic reforms could be spurred from within.
"Seeing this tremendous transfer of wealth that allows $19 billion of peoples' money to go to educational infrastructure -- almost entirely for poor kids -- makes it very easy to believe in this job and this Board of Education's ability to make profoundly meaningful changes," he says.
Hordes of private and public lawyers are representing an array of parties on either side in this litigation, and Saenz won't even be arguing in court. But more than a few observers clearly think of the complex case as Saenz vs. Reed.