Top priority for voters in November mayoral race, poll finds – The 74
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Updated March 30
More than half of Los Angeles voters think the quality of education in the Los Angeles Unified School District is worse than it was before the pandemic, according to a new poll.
In a poll of likely voters commissioned by the nonprofit Great Public Schools Now, 73% of voters believe there isn’t at least one good public school in every Los Angeles neighborhood.
The vast majority of voters also believe that the next mayor is responsible for the quality of education provided by the district and should play an active role in determining school policy – even if the mayor does not have direct control over the school system.
“There is an intersectionality between the issues in our public schools and all the issues we face in this city,” said Ana Teresa Dahan, Great Public Schools Now senior director for policy, advocacy and communications. “We no longer want education to be seen as an isolated issue.”
The poll also found that 78% of voters, all likely to vote in the November 2022 local elections, believe low-income students are disadvantaged due to a lack of access to technology; while 71% worry about the lack of equal access to quality education.
“The public schools here aren’t as good as they could be. Well-to-do people dropped out of neighborhood public schools. This is a clear sign that civic leaders need to pay more attention to our [education] system,” said Pedro Noguera, dean of the USC Rossier School of Education.
Enrollment in Los Angeles schools has been falling for years, with the decline accelerating during the pandemic. In September 2021, registrations fell by almost 6%, a much steeper drop than in recent years. Enrollment for the 2021-22 school year stands at 430,322 students – a dramatic drop from the 2002-03 school year when it peaked at 737,739.
A recent analysis revealed that listing drop below 400,000 for the first time in decades by the 2023-2024 school yeara stark contrast to the overcrowding problem the neighborhood faced in the early 2000s.
Declining enrollment in traditional schools is due to a host of factors, including the rise of charter schools, homeschooling and the high cost of living in Los Angeles that has driven many families away.
“We can’t afford to have a city that essential workers can’t live in,” Noguera said. “The main thing we need to focus on now is getting the kids back into the [public school] system.”
And, when public school enrollment drops, state funding for district schools drops, creating potential budget issues, Noguera said.
In a series of questions about how much responsibility the next mayor should take to solve problems in Los Angeles schools, 85% of respondents think the mayor is responsible for the quality of education; and 59% said the mayor should be “more active” on education policies.
Unlike other US cities such as New York and Chicago, the Los Angeles school system is run by an elected school board and superintendent, rather than the mayor. Also, some district schools are outside the city but within the county lines.
“We know the mayor’s role is not to run our schools, but we see a lot of opportunity in the role the mayor can have,” Dahan said. “Schools are the epicenters of our communities. They are usually the first place people go to seek help.
Mayor Villaraigosa campaigned and won on the issue of education in 2005. He created the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a subset of the LA District comprising the lowest performing schools in LA and made significant progress in transforming some of the worst performing schools into high quality choices. .
“Villaraigosa has shown us that with a bold move as mayor you can really bring about change,” Noguera said. “The next mayor must work closely with the superintendent to rally community support around our public schools.”
The mayor is able to raise funds and create partnerships for public schools with the business and philanthropic communities, Dahan said.
“Education is an important issue that can shape the future of this city. Our next mayor should prioritize public education by leading city-school district collaboration,” said Great Public Schools Now Executive Director Ana Ponce.
The survey also found:
— 77% of voters are concerned about attracting and keeping good teachers.
— 76% are concerned about the physical safety of students.
— 77% of voters are concerned about how the school prepares students for success.
— 54% are concerned about vaccine requirements in schools.
— 54% are worried about the lack of school staff like the student population.