Los Angeles mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel speaks at Camino Nuevo Charter… (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles…)
Los Angeles mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel laid out her plans to improve public schools on Thursday, pushing for tougher evaluations of teachers and principals, while opponent Eric Garcetti secured endorsements from a handful of African American leaders.
Speaking to students and parents in the library at Granada Hills Charter School, Greuel pledged to be "the education-reform mayor." She vowed to advocate for rules that would make it easier to dismiss underperforming teachers and to support the so-called "parent-trigger," which allows parents of children in struggling schools to force aggressive changes, including handing it over to an outside operator.
“I’ll be a voice for our children,” she said. “Because they don’t have a union like teachers do, students are counting on us to fight for them.”
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City Controller Greuel, whose son is a fourth-grader at an L.A. Unified School District-affiliated charter school, said she has seen first-hand the benefits of giving parents more control over decisions, including the selection of a new principal. She said she cares about the city's schools on a personal level, and repeatedly promised to make every education decision “as a parent, and not as a politician."
Asked about those statements, Garcetti said his education record “speaks for itself.” The councilman, who has a 1-year-old daughter, said he, like Greuel, supports efforts to allow test scores to comprise 30% of a teacher’s evaluation. But he also argued that teachers at L.A. Unified “must be lifted up.”
“People are sick of the division. People are sick of the rhetoric. They want results. And they want a leader who will bring folks together to improve our schools,” said Garcetti, appearing in South Los Angeles with several black politicians and political leaders. During that event he picked up the support from former County Supervisor Yvonne Burke and Pastor J. Edgar Boyd, the recently installed senior minister of First A.M.E. Church, among others.
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The dueling comments came one day after Greuel challenged City Councilman Garcetti to an education debate at the Camino Nuevo Leadership Academy with just two hours' notice, arguing that the candidates should be prepared for pop quizzes on school issues. Standing next to an empty podium with Garcetti’s name on it, she argued that his support from United Teachers Los Angeles, the union that represents instructors at L.A. Unified, made him weak on efforts to improve the district.
Garcetti, a former professor at Occidental College, derided that move as a stunt. At a news conference outside First African Methodist Episcopal Church on Thursday, Garcetti said he had worked hard as a councilman to help Camino Nuevo, which is in his district. “We built the soccer field there with city funds, and it’s used by the community on the weekends,” he said. “That principal there has endorsed me. We changed the zoning so that we could put a school where it was previously just industrial land.”
Neither the mayor nor council members have direct authority over L.A. Unified, which covers Los Angeles and more than two dozen other cities in Los Angeles County. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa attempted to change that, securing legislation in Sacramento to gain control in 2006, only to see it struck down in court. Since then, he has waged expensive campaigns that have placed a majority of his candidates on the seven-member school board.
On Tuesday, Villaraigosa accused both candidates of failing to make public schools a priority in the campaign.
Two days later, Greuel said that as mayor she would continue Villaraigosa’s efforts to elect school board members and promised to expand after-school programs and arts, music and physical education programs. She also said she would fight to pass a student's bill of rights, raise awareness about bullying and make sure teachers accused of sexual misconduct were fully investigated.
Political consultant Michael Trujillo, who is helping Greuel’s campaign and who previously worked for both Villaraigosa and the advocacy group Parent Revolution, said Greuel would continue Villaraigosa's legacy on education. "Wendy Greuel is going to stand on his shoulders," he said.