"While it is true that I don't have any formal authority over our schools, I do have a bully pulpit and I will continue to use it," Villaraigosa said.
The mayor gave his address at Jefferson High School, an inner-city campus that has benefited from the Public School Choice program he supports. Jefferson High has gone through a dramatic improvement in curriculum and student test scores.
The program, which began in 2009, identifies Los Angeles Unified School District's lowest performing schools for targeted improvement plans that include installing new leadership.
The mayor said the expiration of teachers' contracts in June will set up the opportunity to negotiate a new contract, one that he said should empower teachers, parents and principals.
Villaraigosa also hinted at his support for a system that evaluates teacher performance based on student achievement.
"When more than 99 percent of district teachers receive the same satisfactory evaluation, it serves no one," he said.
Villaraigosa also fired a shot at Sacramento, saying the state needs to preserve funding for education "so we aren't firing a single - not one - effective teacher, let alone 20 percent of the teachers in the state's largest school district."
The mayor spent the rest of his speech noting bright spots in the city's economy, crime reduction, infrastructure and environmental efforts.
He pointed to statistics suggesting the economy is improving, including a decline in unemployment and a surge in the housing and construction markets.
The Summer Night Lights program, he said, led to the safest summer in 30 years.
Villaraigosa said homicides hit record lows in 2010 thanks to a record high number of sworn police officers patrolling the streets.
The mayor quickly mentioned he was proposing an 11 percent cut to his staff budget, but offered no other details.
The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.