Seeking to stem childhood illiteracy, Mayor Richard Riordan on Tuesday unveiled a new city program that is expected to place more than 1,000 mentors in Los Angeles schools.
The plan, outlined in a speech Riordan gave at an elementary school near USC, calls for private companies and other organizations to adopt 100 schools. The groups will donate money and their employee volunteers will tutor children at the campuses.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will match donations of as much as $25,000 at each school. The DWP will spend $2.5 million on the project over the next five years, drawing from the utility's surplus, Riordan said.
"We will lift our children out of the darkness of illiteracy," Riordan told a gathering at Weemes Elementary School.
The Los Angeles Literacy Corps is the second major education initiative announced by Riordan this week. On Monday, the mayor pledged to raise enough money--as much as $75 million annually--so that all children in the Los Angeles Unified School District can attend preschool.
District officials welcomed the mayor's overtures, saying they expect the literacy program to bring 10 to 15 tutors into each participating school.
"We're excited," said Eiko Moriyama, director of the district's adopt-a-school program. "It could be very helpful for the schools."
Riordan's office was adopting Weemes Elementary. In an interview Monday, the mayor said he would contribute $50,000 of his own money to the campus.
Occidental College in Eagle Rock was among the first organizations to sign up for the literacy corps. But rather than donate money, the college will contribute computers and software to Eagle Rock Elementary School, and provide mentors, a spokesman said.
Also on Tuesday, Riordan named real estate developer Stuart Ketchum as his new school construction czar. Ketchum is to help Los Angeles school officials cut through red tape to build dozens of new schools.
Riordan also picked Jane Blumenfeld, currently chief of staff to City Councilman Mike Feuer, to serve as a liaison between the city and the school district.
Ketchum will work for free, the mayor's office said.