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Wasserman Foundation donates $1 million to L.A. Unified

The private foundation's contribution will fund four programs and up to five positions for the school district, which has been battling multimillion dollar shortages for several years.

June 18, 2011|By Jason Song, Los Angeles Times
  • Casey Wasserman, shown in 2000, heads the Wasserman Foundation, which has donated $1 million to the L.A. Unified School District.
Casey Wasserman, shown in 2000, heads the Wasserman Foundation, which… (Ken Hively, Los Angeles…)

A private foundation has donated $1 million to the city school district to help pay for several academic programs and new positions, officials said Friday.

The Wasserman Foundation, headed by entertainment/sports entrepreneur Casey Wasserman, has donated more than $4.3 million to the district since 2009. It now pays for about 10 positions in the district.

Numerous philanthropic groups, including the Gates and Walton foundations, and billionaire Eli Broad have made donations to the district to help pay the salaries of mostly senior district officials. The donors have strong ties to charter schools.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second largest, has struggled to deal with multimillion-dollar shortfalls for the last several years.

The Wasserman donation will help fund four programs and up to five positions, including those overseeing a new school budgeting effort and an administrative job, to ensure that campuses turned over to groups inside and outside L.A. Unified under the Public School Choice program are meeting their stated goals, according to school district officials.

"We must take advantage of this unique moment in time — the confluence of an energetic new Los Angeles superintendent and a national willingness to move our public education system into the 21st century," Wasserman said in a statement.

Supt. John Deasy, who took over in April, has said that the district needs to encourage outside donations but that although he welcomes the support, he and the school board must set the district agenda.

"I call on a new generation of leaders and philanthropists … to join us in our effort to engage all Californians in the education of our children," Deasy said in a statement.

jason.song@latimes.com

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