Garcetti Praises Reform Strategies

Left to right: Greuel, Garcetti, James, Perry, Pleitez

Prior to today’s United Way mayoral candidate’s forum, we had been told to expect Wendy Greuel to “come out” as an “education reformer.”

But instead it was Eric Garcetti who took the opportunity to align himself with the so-called reform movement, voicing unequivocal support for LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, the parent trigger law, and even performance-based pay.

In an interview with LA School Report after the forum ended, Garcetti denied any sort of change in positions.

“I’ve been consistent for years, before I even ran,” he told LA School Report.

Observers disagreed over whether Garcetti’s rhetoric was genuine or merely a tactical maneuver.

Today’s was the first Mayoral candidates forum that focused entirely on education. It took place in front of an extremely pro-reform audience — none other than Eli Broad was sitting in the front row.

Garcetti was endorsed by the teachers union last month after saying at a mayoral debate, “I’m sick of us bullying our teachers… We’re so obsessed with firing the bad teachers, we forgot to lift up the good ones.”

The shift in tone was striking from Garcetti, who said previously that he supported the parents of 24th St. Elementary, who are initiating a parent trigger at their school, but told the LA Times‘ Jim Newton, “I just don’t think that it, by itself, turns a school around… We need systemic improvement.”

Newton ended his column by encouraging the candidate to use the United Way event “to lay to rest fears that his positions have been molded by his UTLA support.”

It was advice that Garcetti seemingly took to heart.

“I’ve disagreed with UTLA on many things — seniority, parent trigger,” he said.

It wasn’t just the trigger.  On issue after issue, Garcetti talked the talk. He also said he was in favor of linking “higher salaries to accountability,” raising money for school board candidates, mayoral control of LAUSD (though he cautioned, “it ain’t gonna happen”), Superintendent John Deasy (“He’s doing a great job. He needs to be reappointed,”) and school choice.

Many in the audience found his stance — if not a shift then certainly a new side of the candidate — surprising.

“I think he made news there,” said Parent Revolution founder Ben Austin, who was sitting in the audience. “That was significant.”

But not everyone was as convinced of Garcetti’s sincerity.

“Garcetti realizes UTLA has no money so now he becomes a fake reformer,” said pro-reform political consultant Mike Trujillo in a text message to LA School Report. “If Garcetti is a reformer, then I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.”

Greuel, who was endorsed today by former School Board President and ardent school reformer Yolie Flores and current School Board members Nury Martinez and Dr. Richard Vladovic, took up the reformer position as well, praising Superintendent Deasy (“He came in taking no prisoners”) and criticizing UTLA.

“What has happened, often, is teachers don’t believe that UTLA is looking out for their best interests,” she said.

The other candidates, Kevin James, Jan Perry and Emanuel Pleitez, all took up similar positions, praising Deasy and school choice while criticizing the teachers union.

In fact, all the candidates were in nearly complete harmony on most issues, causing the moderator, Dr. Raphael Sonenshein, to joke, “I give candidates permission to disagree with each other.”

Prior to the forum, the candidates filled out written questionaires, which you can download here: GreuelGarcetti, JamesPerryPleitez.

Previous posts: Education Summit Could Reveal Mayoral Candidates’ DifferencesVideo: Mayoral Candidates Talk EducationMayoral Candidate Greuel Supports Garcia, Parent Trigger;  Candidate Garcetti Waffles on School Board Endorsement