Villaraigosa Stresses Need for Education Reform

Y. Kit Wu

Former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (right) is talking about his past and current political experiences with current IOP fellow Ana Navarro at the Harvard Kennedy School on Thursday, Oct. 24.

Former mayor of Los Angeles Antonio R. Villaraigosa emphasized the nationwide need for education reform during a John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum with CNN political contributor Ana Navarro on Thursday.

The discussion, which spanned topics ranging from education policy to ethnicity in politics to Villaraigosa’s family values, occurred only a day after the politician spoke at a “Conversations with Kirkland” event Wednesday evening. The events are part of Villaraigosa’s visiting fellowship at the Institute of Politics.

Navarro, a resident fellow at the IOP this fall, also hosts a study group entitled “Old, White, Straight, Male Voters Ain’t What They Used to Be.”

Throughout the conversation with Navarro, Villaraigosa discussed the structural problems in the public education system, an issue that he said was brought to the forefront during his service as mayor from 2005 to 2013 and during his previous membership in the California State Assembly. Villaraigosa said that flaws in the American education system contribute to national economic, democratic, and civil rights issues.

“Great cities are anchored by great public schools and institutions of higher learning,” Villaraigosa said. “The kids of the poor aren’t competing with those of the developing world.”

The former mayor said that changes need to implemented by administrators, parents, and teachers alike in order for education to be effective. He cited the improvements that his administration orchestrated within many schools in the L.A. public school system, particularly those in typically underachieving areas, as an example of exhaustive reform.

Max W. Liebeskind ’17 said that he attended the event in order to hear Villaraigosa’s unique perspective as a mayor, particularly on topics like education and labor unions.

“I’m a native New Yorker who was in the New York City public school system, and so I was really excited to see a leader of a major metropolitan area talk about metropolitan issues,” Liebeskind said.

Navarro and Villaraigosa also addressed hyper-political partisanship in light of the recent government shutdown. Villaraigosa said that the general population is losing faith in the government, and that he does not think members of either party understand the level of cynicism that has spread across the American public.

“That’s not healthy for democracy,” Villaraigosa said. “That’s not healthy for either party. Both parties need to push out the edges and try to forge a compromise.”

When asked whether he would pursue further political office, Villaraigosa said that while he is taking some time to reflect and regenerate, he wasn’t ruling any options out. However, he added that if he does assume political office in the future, it will be in a “transformative” role.

“And if I can’t be transformative, I’ll let someone else do it,” Villaraigosa said.

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