As Antonio Villaraigosa exits the mayoralty of Los Angeles, there will be both tributes and brickbats.
Among other things, he will be remembered for his failed attempt to take control of the public schools and for his hostility to teachers, to their union, and to public education. On his watch, there was “an explosion” in the number of privately managed charter schools, a high priority for the billionaires.
He did get control of a small number of schools, raised millions of dollars to turn them into “incubators of reform,” but demonstrated that his schools performed on state tests no differently from regular public schools. Mayoral control has no magic elixir.
He fought hard to tie teachers’ evaluations to test scores, despite the absence of any evidence for doing so. He controlled the school board through his surrogates, but recently lost control when two of the candidates he supported were defeated despite the millions raised by the mayor.
This turn of events is especially surprising in light of Villaraigosa’s early career in the labor movement. His conversion is a tribute to the power of money in American politics.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaking at a school privatization event. Photo by Robert D. Skeels