UNIVERSAL CITY – Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, campaigning to take over the LAUSD, told business leaders on Friday that overhauling the school district is vital for the city’s economic health. Speaking at the inaugural San Fernando Valley Economic Summit, the mayor stressed that his call for restructuring the Los Angeles Unified School District is important for continued economic development because employers will have a better-educated work force. “There are things we can do to improve these schools and I’m on a mission to do it,” Villaraigosa said near the end of his 30-minute speech. “Shame on us if we don’t roll up our sleeves and do everything we can. “Los Angeles is the city of power, Los Angeles is the city of hope. That’s why this is such a great place.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinalsThe approximately 500 people attending the summit at the Universal Sheraton responded with a standing ovation. To illustrate the problems facing the LAUSD the mayor cited a recent Harvard University study that showed that the district has a 50 percent dropout rate, though that rate has been disputed by the district and other outside sources. “If we’re losing a quarter of our kids, it’s huge. If we’re losing 50 percent, it’s a crisis,” the mayor said. Los Angeles school board member David Tokofsky said the district has the best data tracking system in the state. “I think that’s the first time I’ve heard City Hall use the lower figure. In the last week (Superintendent) Roy Romer said that these (24 percent) are the state figures and the district’s system verifies that,” Tokofsky said. “Somebody ought to convene a debate between the two to get to the truth.” In his speech Villaraigosa also acknowledged that the Valley’s economy is critical to Los Angeles’ prosperity. “As goes the Valley, so goes the city. It’s true that the Valley is as vibrant as it’s ever been. It’s truly a regional economy.” To help keep on track the mayor urged support in November of a $37.3 billion revenue bond package that includes billions for schools, transportation and affordable housing. Some of that money could end up flowing through the Valley’s economy. The summit, presented by the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley and California State University, Northridge, offered some support for the a link between school reform and a sound economy. A telephone survey by the San Fernando Valley Economic Research Center at CSUN and Davis Research of 127 medium-size businesses found that the most pressing issue they face is finding skilled workers. About 33 percent said this was their chief concern, up from 25 percent a year ago. Other concerns, in order, were workers’ compensation costs, traffic congestion, the high cost of doing business, high home prices, intense offshore competition and local taxes. More Valley companies plan additional hiring this year (53.2 percent) than in last year’s poll (37 percent). And 85.8 percent said they have no plans to leave the Valley in the next two years. Daniel Blake, director of the research center and a CSUN economics professor, said the Valley will continue to outperform the county and state economies. “We’re in good shape. We’ve got a good strong economy with sustainable growth.” [email protected] (818) 713-3743160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!