Wendy Greuel Promises To Be 'Education Reform Mayor'

After Avalanche Of Criticisms, Greuel Tries A New Tactic

Los Angeles mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel promised Thursday to make education a priority if elected, saying she will expand the city's after-school programs, support efforts to hire quality teachers and work to protect children from sexual abuse.

Speaking in front of a small group at Granada Hills Charter High School, Greuel pledged to be the "education reform mayor," assuring voters she will fight for students and teachers.

"I know firsthand how important it is to have flexibility and choice when determining your child's future," Greuel said, referring to her 9-year-old son who attends Colfax Elementary School in Studio City.

"Our kids should have access to the best possible education, whether it's at an LAUSD school, an affiliated charter, a partnership school or a great charter school like this Granada Hills."

Greuel's remarks, the first major policy speech on education from either mayoral candidate, were part of an effort by the city controller to turn a page from several days of criticism on the education issue. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Tuesday slammed both her and City Councilman Eric Garcetti for failing to spell out an education vision. Then on Wednesday, Greuel delivered a speech attacking Garcetti at a popular school in Westlake, only to be later criticized by the principal for using her campus in an overtly political way. She also challenged her rival to an impromptu debate on education with two hours notice. The offer was dismissed as a stunt by the Garcetti campaign.

With supporters in the audience Thursday, Greuel focused on a more positive message, only referencing Garcetti once in her remarks.

She repeatedly drew on her own personal experiences with Los Angeles Unified School District, and reminded the crowd that she attended public school. As a parent, she said she understands the "bureaucratic constraints that can hold back many schools from reaching their potential" and re-affirmed her support for the parent trigger, which allows the takeover of struggling schools.

Her campaign has accused Garcetti of "flip-flopping" on the issue of parent-trigger, which he has denied.

On Thursday, Greuel said she would push for legislation for strict background checks and detailed investigations of sexual abuse reports, and create programs to counteract bullying.

She also talked about creating a "bill of rights" for students.

"I'll be a voice for students. They don't have a union, like teachers do. Students are counting on us to fight for them," Greuel said.

The mayor has no formal jurisdiction over LAUSD, but can use the bully pulpit to try and affect change.

Some goals mentioned by Greuel are already in the process of being enacted. Greuel pledged to create a leadership pipeline for teachers and principals, a program that Superintendent John Deasy is already working on.

Garcetti spokesman Jeff Millman said Garcetti has been talking about these items for many months on the campaign trail.

"Eric has frequently discussed ideas for improving STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education, improving career training for L.A. students, using city funds to build school/city joint-use facilities to make our schools the center of our communities, and being the strongest advocate for L.A.'s students in Sacramento to fight for more funding for LAUSD schools," Millman said in a written statement.

The overall range of Greuel's education goals impressed Dave Garfinkle, president of the Tarzana Property Owners Association, who attended Thursday's speech and is a Greuel supporter.

"There wasn't just top level mumble jumble," Garfinkle said. "She came out with specific things that she wanted to do."

David Tokofsky, former board member at the Los Angeles Unified School District, said he wished she had addressed specific problems. In particularly, more attention needs to be paid to the science curriculum at LAUSD and the problem of 4th through 8th graders at LAUSD, said Tokofksy, who read the text of Greuel's remarks.

"She talked about the bright side of the moon, and you need to talk about the dark side ... people are really depressed about the state of schools," he said.

Speaking to reporters after the speech, Greuel said her education goals were realistic.

"Twenty five years ago, the L.A. Unified school system said we could never have a L.A.'s Best School system on their schools," Greuel said, referencing the city after-school program. "And today, we have 189 schools. A lot of people said there couldn't be partnership schools. And Mayor Villaraigosa pushed for the partnership schools. There is a lot we can do, advocating for the state legislature for the dollars to come down here, for the local control ... I feel many of (my ideas) can be implemented. I am going to lead the effort to do that and be the reform mayor in Los Angeles."


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