Renewing his campaign vow to improve public schools, a sometimes-combative Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa challenged business leaders Wednesday to join him in an effort to reform education and raise Los Angeles to the status of a world-class city. Speaking to 350 business leaders at a Town Hall Los Angeles meeting, the mayor said he intends to overcome any opposition to his efforts to reform the Los Angeles Unified School District and gain greater control of it. “We need to make our city world-class together,” Villaraigosa said. “This is the place where people come from every corner of the Earth to succeed. “We need to develop a society where we speak more than one language. We have a world economy where you will need to speak Mandarin and Spanish. Our ability to compete depends on that. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week “We won’t compete unless we dramatically improve our schools.” Villaraigosa – who also told the group that he has broad plans to improve the city’s transportation system, environment and business growth – has made education reform one of his top priorities since he took office in July. He has formed an advisory panel to review various ways the nation’s second-largest school district could be managed, including an outright mayoral takeover in appointing school board members. Villaraigosa said he was waiting for the completion of Tuesday’s special election, in which LAUSD voters approved a bond measure for nearly $4 billion, before concentrating on such reforms. “Make no mistake: I am not just tinkering around the edges,” he said. “The goal is success. I am not going to be intimidated. … I am going to take them on. “I intend to lead the case for reform of public education. Look at us: How could we do worse? Half of our children dropping out, half of our children not being able to read. “I am asking you to join me in this effort to turn around our schools, to improve our economy, to make people understand that we need to grab this vision or we will miss our opportunity to be that great golden city on the hill.” The mayor said he has developed a tentative timetable for his plan but will not make it public until he works with others to determine what can be accomplished. “I met with someone this morning who told me that right now, there is not the political will for a mayoral takeover of the schools,” Villaraigosa said. “And he’s right. “But that is what a campaign is about. When I first announced for mayor, no one thought I would have a chance, but look at me now.” Whatever final proposal emerges is still in the development phase, Villaraigosa said. “I am not sure mayoral control is the panacea,” Villaraigosa said. “But change is needed.” A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles and a member of Villaraigosa’s education panel, said he wants to meet with the mayor and discuss his goals. Duffy said school district officials now seem more willing to embrace and accept change. And while Duffy has voiced concern about a mayoral takeover in the past, he said he supports efforts to improve the schools. He has been working with district officials on several pilot programs, especially on creating adjunct high school campuses to help with overcrowding and making a broader effort to create smaller districts within the LAUSD. “I’m a career educator, but I support reform,” Duffy said. “We have to look at new ways of educating our children. I don’t want to be perceived as just another union blowhard saying no, no, no to reform. I am as passionate as the mayor to make the schools the best they can be for all our children.” Rick Orlov, (213) 978-0390 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!