LAUSD Wins First Legal Round Against Mayor
“It is hereby ordered, adjudged and decreed that … a peremptory writ of mandate shall issue under the seal of this court compelling respondents/defendants, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, State Board of Education, State Controller Steve Westly, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Los Angeles County School Superintendent Darline Robles, and those public officers and employees acting by and through their authority to refrain from enforcing or implementing AB 1381 in the execution of the course and scope of their official duties.”
Such was the order of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dzintra I. Janava this afternoon as she blocked the entire menu of mayoral takeover plans for the LAUSD. Villaraigosa immediately called a press conference to announce that L.A. taxpayers will foot the bill for an appeal, directly to the state supreme court.
At issue is whether the legislation violates the state constitution by taking away the authority of the elected school board and giving unprecedented powers to the city’s mayor. AB 1381 was steamrollered through the legislature late this past summer, without benefit of hearings by either education committee. It is expected to be fast tracked as well before the state’s highest court.
Known as the “Romero Educational Reform Act of 2006,” the legislation was challenged on the basis of “total and fatal conflict” with the California Constitution. The judge referred to three precedent cases, Pacific Legal Foundation vs. Brown (1981), California Teachers Assn vs. Hayes (1992) and Wilson vs. State Board of Education (1999).
The ruling declared that AB 1381 violates Article 9, sections 5, 6 and 8. Section 5 states that the Legislature shall provide for a system of common schools by which free schools shall be kept up and supported in each district at least six months in every year, under the supervision of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (currently an elected office), and administered locally by an elected or appointed governing board.
Judge Dzintra’s order states that a mayor, or a council of mayors, do not qualify as “authorities” under this definition. “The 1946 amendment [to the state constitution] specifically removed municipal authority over school districts and appears to reflect the people’s determination to separate municipal functions from school functions due to the variety of conflicts that arise between their respective interests.”
Section 6 states, in part, that “No school or college or any other part of the Public School System shall be, directly or indirectly, transferred from the Public School System or placed under the jurisdiction of any authority other than one included within the Public School System.”
Section 8 of Article 9 states “No public money shall ever be appropriated for the support of … any school not under the exclusive control of the officers of the public schools …” The court rejected the mayor’s argument that these constitutional provisions only prohibit a school district from transferring management and control to persons outside the school system, and do not constitute a restriction on the Legislature itself.
The court also found AB 1381 in violation of section 14 of Article 9 by creating “a special law that addresses solely the organization of the LAUSD … and singles out the LAUSD for separate and different organizational treatment without articulating any rational classification scheme.”
The judge’s order today also “concludes that there is a genuine conflict between AB 1381 and the Los Angeles City Charter. Section 230 of the city charter requires the Mayor of Los Angeles to ‘devote his or her entire time to the duties’ as the Chief Executive Officer of the City of Los Angeles. AB 1381, by contrast, requires the Mayor to spend a substantial portion of his time directing the Mayor’s [educational] partnership and controlling the Council of Mayors.
The proposed takeover by the Mayor of three local school clusters from the LAUSD was ruled a violation of Article 2, section 2, and Article 1, section 7 because the Mayor’s Partnership would be appointed/chosen in some currently undefined manner. As a result, “the residents within the demonstration project[s] have been deprived of a meaningful right to vote for their school board representative … who is statutorily disabled from exercising any authority over [these] schools …”
The final paragraph of Judge Janavs’ order directs the respondents (the Mayor and state) to pay all the legal costs to the petitioners (the LAUSD and parent groups). I wonder if this will end up going to a collection agency?