Frustrated with slow response to dismal student performance in the vast Los Angeles Unified system, officials in six southeast cities have launched an effort to form a local agency that would let them have direct control over their schools. With about 65,000 students at Los Angeles Unified School District campuses in the cities of South Gate, Bell, Huntington Park, Cudahy, Maywood and Vernon, officials in those cities want to form a joint-powers authority to select their own superintendent, gain some control over funding and have a greater say over the curriculum. The local agency, however, would not have power to hire or fire teachers or to interfere with labor arrangements. Spokeswoman Binti Harvey said South Gate city officials are responding to a graduation rate of 42 percent, with only 11 percent of those moving on to higher education. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinals“The goal is to improve the performance of the students here because everyone would agree it’s unacceptable, and the feeling is the district, as it’s currently operated, is too big to deal with these problems,” Harvey said. “The challenges faced by students in South Gate are different from those in West Hollywood, and … if elected officials could share responsibility for their performance, they’d be better equipped to respond to the needs of the students and parents.” Bell, Huntington Park and South Gate have already passed resolutions supporting forming a joint-powers agency. When all the cities sign on, it would require legislation to allow them to form an agency involved in education planning. Harvey said the goal is to propose the legislation by August. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa – who garnered the support of the southeast cities as he sought a legislative audit of the LAUSD – supports the cities’ efforts to take back control of their schools from a central bureaucracy, a spokeswoman said. “Mayor Villaraigosa wants to remove the layers of bureaucracy that stifle innovation by decentralizing much of the decision-making (and) moving it closest to the classrooms. He supports the efforts of the southeast cities in taking a leadership role in reforming our schools,” spokeswoman Janelle Erickson said. “What works in Brentwood might not work in Bell. Communities, teachers and parents deserve the ability to create schools that serve the needs of their children.” But the school board president, Marlene Canter, said the cities are simply responding to Villaraigosa’s plan to take control of the nation’s second-largest school district. “I think it’s a total push-back to the mayor’s plan, and I think all these ideas are generating from opposition to total control,” Canter said. “It’s all about politics and power, not kids, because all of these southeast cities are benefitting from our construction program. Without these cities, the mayor would have 100 percent control, not 80/20.” The mayor’s proposal calls for creating a council consisting of the mayors of the 23 cities served by the LAUSD. The council would select the superintendent and adopt the district budget through a weighted voting system based on the population served by the LAUSD – giving Villaraigosa a supermajority vote. But leaders of the southeast cities maintain that forming a local agency is not a precursor to splintering the district. While the idea of seceding from the LAUSD has been explored over the past decade, it never gained steam because of political complications that would arise regarding unions and funding, Harvey said. [email protected] (818) 713-3722160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!