Effort Launched to Raise $200 Million for L.A. Public Schools

Friday, September 16, 2011
Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy and Hollywood philanthropist Megan Chernin have launched an effort to raise $200 million over five years to benefit local public schools. The collaboration, in the works for several months, was announced in a letter signed by Deasy, Chernin and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The letter strikingly lists failures of the Los Angeles Unified School District but also asserts that "for the first time in the District's history, the conditions for bold change are present.... The time is now to harness this potential and it is our responsibility to do so." Besides Chernin, the nascent board of the Los Angeles Fund for Public Education includes education philanthropist Casey Wasserman ? who has given directly to L.A. Unified in the past ? as well as former educator and artist Nancy Marks and Jamie Alter Lynton, a former journalist who is married to the chief executive of Sony Pictures Entertainment. Donations could support districtwide initiatives, such as a new training program for principals, among other things. They could also bring to the district effective approaches used at charter schools, said spokeswoman Amanda Crumley. One selling point for participants is that the elected L A. Board of Education would have no direct control over the money. "As you know, the innovation Los Angeles' students need cannot start within a rule-bound bureaucracy," the letter states. Key education donors have refused to give much, if anything, to L.A. Unified because they question how well the nation's second-largest school system would use the money. L.A. Unified, like other districts, has been hard hit by state funding shortfalls, resulting in thousands of layoffs, larger class sizes and a shorter school year. Deasy, who became superintendent in mid-April, has made pursuing outside support a high priority.

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