By Keyang Pang
March 24, 2016 ǀ Reporting from Los Angeles
Former mayors of Los Angeles Richard Riordan and Antonio Villaraigosa offered their thoughts and views on persisting education and homelessness problems facing the second largest city in America on an event hosted by Town Hall Los Angeles.
Mr. Riordan expressed his dissatisfaction with the public school system of Los Angeles, blaming the teachers’ union for centering on teachers to an extent that it takes seven or eight years for the school district to fire unqualified teachers. As a result, more and more charter schools came into being. Though charter schools are not widely recognized, the data indicate the graduation rate of charter high schools can reach up to 90%.
According to Mr. Riordan, 90% of the middle schools need to be shut down. Many students who have great academic performance in elementary schools start to touch drugs and join gangs in middle schools. Los Angeles has a long way to go to plan a better future for its students.
Mr. Villaraigosa said, when he first came into office, the high school graduation rate of Los Angeles school district was only 44%. And all schools were racially disproportionate. As the first Latino mayor, he attached significant importance to student diversity and disadvantaged groups. At the end of his mayoral term, the high school graduation rate jumped to 72%.
On the issue of homelessness, Mr. Riordan said Los Angeles tops the nation in the homeless population. Over the last decade the skid row has shrank from 16 blocks to 6 blocks due to downtown development. However, the progress has not been obviously made in placing the homeless people though Mayor Eric Garcetti claims he has a plan.
To solve the problem, Los Angeles needs the help of the state government and surrounding cities, said Mr. Villaraigosa.