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Poor Schools Really Need That $1 Billion

August 16, 2004

Re "State, ACLU Settle Suit on Education," Aug. 11: As a high school and middle school teacher, I am very pleased to see an agreement that sets aside $1 billion for schools in poor neighborhoods. At my last teaching assignment at a middle school in South L.A., I taught in a windowless, cement bunker without a working phone or air conditioner. We had a set of class textbooks -- 36 for roughly 200 students -- so marked up and worn that they were best suited for the trash can.

There were not enough desks for each student to have a seat when everyone was present, and if I didn't clean the classroom every day, it didn't get cleaned. Obviously, this school and the other 2,399 "low-performing schools" need basic resources that they haven't been getting for some time. Most teachers say that with these resources in place and a reduction in class size, test scores go up. So why do we need $50 million set aside to "assess" the needs? [That money could] buy hundreds of more certified teachers and thousands of dollars worth of new equipment. That's what the kids need. I implore all the parties that created this agreement to see to it that every penny set aside by the state is spent in the interest of the students rather than put in the pocket of an independent contractor, consultant or administrator.

Nancy Weems


I hope that everyone who complained that the ACLU should be spending its time on "more important" issues than defending separation of church and state by convincing L.A. County to remove the Latin cross from its seal will now applaud the ACLU for winning its four-year legal battle to secure a commitment from the state to spend $1 billion to repair deteriorating schools and ensure that poor children get a quality education with the textbooks, teachers and proper facilities they deserve.

People forget that every day the ACLU is defending constitutional rights in many different areas, including racial equality, the right of privacy, freedom of expression, immigrant rights, due process and equal protection of the law.

Stephen F. Rohde

Los Angeles

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