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Judge Blocks LA School Takeover Law

December 22, 2006

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A judge on Thursday struck down a law granting Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa partial control of the nation’s second-largest school district.

The law, scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, violated the state constitution by interfering with the governing authority of the Los Angeles Unified School District board, Superior Court Judge Dzintra I. Janavs ruled.

``The statute makes drastic changes in the local governance of the LAUSD giving the mayor a role that is unprecedented in California,″ she wrote.

A coalition of parents, students and administrators sued in October, contending the law takes too much power away from the elected school board. The city and state maintained that such a move was needed to reform the education system.

``We already have a school governance structure in place, and our focus needs to be on academic achievement,″ said Scott P. Plotkin, executive director of the California School Boards Association.

Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, said he was disappointed: ``Legal hairsplitting has prevailed over the interests of children.″

The law would have shifted some power from the seven-member school board to the mayor, the district superintendent and a new council comprised of more than two dozen other mayors within the district’s boundaries.

The legislation would have also given Villaraigosa direct control over the city’s 36 worst-performing schools. The mayor had initially sought near-complete control over the district.

Villaraigosa was scheduled to hold a news conference later Thursday.

The district includes more than 727,000 students, more than 1,130 schools and 78,000 employees.

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