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Battle: Los Angeles—School Reform Edition

Tomorrow’s school board elections in Los Angeles have become the latest battleground in the national school reform effort. Outside groups have spent almost $4.4 million on the elections. Supporting the reformers’ slate of candidates are New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Students First, the national advocacy organization of education reformer extraordinaire and former DC School Chancellor Michelle Rhee. On the other side is the teachers’ union, supporting status quo candidates. As the New York Times reports, the outcome of this race could be a bellwether for the education reform movement nationally:

[Rhee] said that while she still believed mayoral control of urban schools was the best way to make aggressive changes, Los Angeles was proving to be a testing ground for what kind of policy changes could be enacted through a school board.

“It will be interesting to see what kind of impact we can have by investing heavily in this race,” Ms. Rhee said. “It could determine whether or not we should move in this direction.”

This isn’t LA’s first skirmish in the school reform wars. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa attempted to take over the city’s school district upon entering office in 2006. That effort failed, but he has pressed on with lower-profile efforts, culminating in the upcoming election. Villaraigosa created the Coalition for School Reform, a group backed by Rhee, Bloomberg, and others, to support the three reform candidates up for election. The coalition aims to loosen the union’s grip on education and teaching practices, implementing teacher evaluations, streamlining the hiring and firing of teachers, and pushing for a larger role for charter schools.

The education reform movement has been gaining ground in cities across the country, but LA is the nation’s second-largest school district, with a lot of potential to pull the rest of the nation in one direction or another.

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