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Davis Lays Claim to School Success

Conference: He speaks to thousands of Urban League delegates. Group's leader calls progress 'incremental.'

July 29, 2002|RICHARD MAROSI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Addressing a conference of civil rights leaders, Gov. Gray Davis said his educational programs have helped provide opportunities for "every deserving child."

In his brief speech before thousands of delegates at the National Urban League's annual conference in Los Angeles, Davis claimed improved test scores and rising minority enrollment rates at colleges as successes during his tenure as governor.

Davis said he was committed to doing what he could to offer "hope and opportunity for each child."

The governor's comments were greeted by polite applause from league members at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The league is one of the nation's largest and most influential civil rights organizations.

The league president, Hugh B. Price, while not addressing Davis' comments directly during his keynote speech, said that urban schools across the nation remain troubled.

"The progress being made remains incremental at best. Inner-city children are trapped between lofty academic standards and low-performing schools," Price said.

Price criticized a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows public money to be spent on school vouchers for parents who send their children to private schools.

With Davis clapping in support, Price said that vouchers foster an "illusion of choice," and that a voucher system would leave urban students behind.

"That is why the National Urban League staunchly defends public schools against all the rabidly conservative wolves dressed in sheep's clothing that come bearing tantalizing gifts like vouchers," he said.

Price touched on numerous national and global issues, calling on President Bush and other leaders to fight the spread of AIDS and reduce global warming.

He also criticized excessive penalties for some repeat criminals, citing California's three-strikes law as the "worst example of egregious excess."

Though he spared Davis criticism, saying the governor had inherited the problem, Davis has long supported the law, which sends three-time felons to prison for 25-year-to-life sentences.

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