By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Goldberg, one of the few elected officials in Los Angeles to have served on both the school board and the City Council, said the biggest issue for L.A. Unified is the lack of sufficient funding — an issue the mayor could easily take up in Sacramento if he used his political capital. Now in the state Assembly, Goldberg also questioned whether Villaraigosa has the city bureaucracy running so smoothly that he can take on a new, huge assignment.
“I have worked in both institutions, and I don’t think the city runs better than the school district,” she went on. “They’re about the same. They have some departments that are more efficient than others. But our mayor made great promises about transportation, and I was driving last night, so I hope he keeps those promises. Because there’s hardly a rush hour anymore. It’s all rush hour.”
To get his mayoral takeover through the state Assembly, Villaraigosa will have to get past Goldberg, a former high school teacher who is now chairwoman of the Assembly Education Committee. An outspoken foe of mayoral control, Goldberg argued that the high school dropout rate is at a crisis level because students are bored; many of the classes that make the day interesting have been replaced by the intense drilling for testing in math and reading, she argued.
Still, Goldberg’s influence has diminished since she arrived in Sacramento, as centrist Democrats and a Republican governor pushed her and her agenda aside. She will be termed out in December after just six years representing the 45th Assembly District. If Villaraigosa fails this time around, he will have a new group of lawmakers — including Goldberg’s replacement — to persuade in the next legislative session.
Five candidates are seeking Goldberg’s seat, representing the most left-leaning neighborhoods in Los Angeles. The front-runner is union organizer Kevin de León, who is running with the blessing of Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, a close Villaraigosa ally who will be needed to usher the mayoral-takeover bill through the Legislature.
De León holds the kind of résumé that would make him a natural foe of mayoral control. He is on leave from the CTA, having worked last year with the Alliance for a Better California, the union coalition that defeated Schwarzenegger’s four ballot measures last year. Yet asked this week about the issue, de León said he still has no position.
Like dozens of Democrats, de León finds himself navigating between his loyalty to Núñez and the mayor and his fealty to the CTA. His ambivalence, five months after a decisive victory over a Republican governor, shows Villaraigosa's power. And his candidacy offers other lessons about the battle for mayoral control.
Duffy, the UTLA president, recently offered to back de León’s state Assembly bid, only to see his own membership block the endorsement. The turnabout served as a subtle warning to Duffy about any efforts to reach a behind-the-scenes deal with Villaraigosa over mayoral control, said Rowan Elementary School teacher Paul Huebner, who serves on the union’s endorsement board.
Huebner marched with Villaraigosa during the 1989 teachers’ strike. Yet Huebner said he will have no qualms about flying up to Sacramento this summer to tell state legislators that they need to keep the seven-member school board in charge of L.A. Unified — and defeat Villaraigosa’s plan.
“We do have a sitting policy at UTLA that’s in opposition to [mayoral control],” Huebner said. “And there are a large, large number of people in the leadership of the union who would fight to the death for that.”
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