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Council Panels Back Plan for Schools

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Times Staff Writer

A third of the Los Angeles City Council signaled its support Wednesday for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s proposal to win more control over public schools.

In a 5-0 vote, members of two council committees endorsed a bill authorizing Villaraigosa’s plan, and the full council is expected to consider the issue Friday.

At a joint meeting, the Intergovernmental Relations and Education and Neighborhoods committees also asked for more information on parts of the measure.

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As currently drafted and pending before a state Senate committee, the bill would give Villaraigosa a role in managing the Los Angeles Unified School District overall as well as direct authority over three clusters of low-performing schools. The plan is a departure from Villaraigosa’s initial plan to take over the district wholesale but still faces opposition from the school board.

Echoing a refrain repeated by her colleagues during the three-hour meeting, Councilwoman Janice Hahn said that although the bill was not perfect, it could usher in more significant progress than that being achieved by the school board.

“Our kids are not graduating from high school. We don’t have a well-trained, well-educated workforce,” said Hahn, who had earlier expressed doubts about the plan. “So I say let’s get to work; let’s give the mayor of Los Angeles control over three clusters.”

Councilman Herb Wesson also urged support of the bill, noting that it contains a six-year sunset clause.

“When you look at the kids that are dropping out of school, those kids look like me and those kids look like Mr. Huizar and those kids look like Mr. Padilla,” said Wesson, who is African American. “I think it’s incumbent upon us to do something.”

Councilmen Jose Huizar and Alex Padilla created a commission last year to study governance of L.A. Unified. Padilla, who voted to support the bill, had expressed reservations.

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Upon learning of the council committees’ support, a broadly smiling Villaraigosa said: “Great news ... I’ve always said that the council and I share a commitment to the quality of life in Los Angeles.”

Times staff writer Jim Newton contributed to this report.

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