A high school senior has to take on the duties of a band teacher. Students often have to clean school restrooms because custodial services have been cut back. Science teachers are forced to cancel experiments because they can no longer afford chemicals. A sewing teacher is reduced to begging for donated fabric. With money for replacement of school supplies diminishing, many teachers no longer allow students to take books home; information for homework is sent home on photocopied sheets--if the teacher remembers to stash away enough copy paper.
These are just a few of the real-life examples cited by Times staff writer Sandy Banks earlier this year in a Los Angeles Times Magazine examination of hard times at one Los Angeles public school, Grant High in Van Nuys.
Contrast that picture of making do amid chronic shortage with the $250,000 that Los Angeles Unified School District administrators chose to spend during the last year for, of all things, public relations and an opinion poll.
Now, $250,000 in the district's annual budget of $4 billion is not a huge amount. But spending a quarter of a million dollars to combat the district's negative image among the public begs the question of why the image is negative to begin with.