Earlier this week, the CharterNation Podcast officially launched! And our first guest was none other than Antonio Villaraigosa, the former Mayor of Los Angeles. Prior to becoming mayor, Villaraigosa served on the L.A. City Council from 2003 to 2005, and from 1994-2000, he served as Democratic Whip, Majority Leader, and Speaker in the California State Assembly.
The long-time charter school advocate and education reformer chatted with CCSA President and CEO, Myrna Castrejón, on multiple items including where his passion for public education comes from, school re-openings, and how the next LAUSD superintendent can succeed.
Here’s a recap of what he had to say:
LAUSD’s approach to re-openings and the search for its next superintendent:
“The fact is that L.A. Unified and schools throughout the state were way too late in opening up our schools for instruction,” Villaraigosa says of LAUSD’s handling of re-openings during the pandemic.
To recover, he says, it’s up to LAUSD leaders to ensure that resources from the federal government are directed towards the students left behind over the past year and half.
As for the district’s search for its next superintendent, Villaraigosa says there needs to be a change in the relationship between the school board and the supt. The school board should set policy goals but resist micromanaging the superintendent at the potential expense of expediting their departure.
“The superintendent should lead the effort to improve these schools.”
What charter schools can do post-pandemic:
Villaraigosa says that it’s up to all of us in CharterNation to continue working with fellow public school advocates in calling on the state legislature for the necessary resources to help students who have been most hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic. He also says that public schools of all stripes should share with each other their stories about what has worked and been successful.
“The interests of kids has to be paramount here. We’ve got a lot of work to do. But let’s work together.” Villaraigosa says.
How public education comes back stronger:
“Some kids have been impacted more than others [by the pandemic],” he says, citing low-income students of color in particular.
It’s going to be up to the state and federal government, he says, to take note of that reality and continue to build off policies such as the expansion of universal pre-K, additional supports for educators and increased funding.
Why he’s passionate about public education:
At a very young age, Villaraigosa was aware of the disparities in education in his home city of Los Angeles. He led the East Los Angeles walkouts at Cathedral High School in 1968, protesting the educational inequities in the Los Angeles Unified School District and the lack of diversity in the curriculum at the time.
“The quality of education was inferior to more affluent schools throughout the city,” he says of his educational experience.