The School Reformers
Megan Chernin, Antonio Villaraigosa & Leslie Moonves
The Los Angeles Fund for Public Education challenges the wealthy in L.A. to remember how wealth is built," says Mayor Villaraigosa of the nonprofit devoted to improving the L.A. Unified School District. "Education is a major part of the economic ladder." Founded last summer by Chernin -- wife of Peter, former News Corp. president -- with LAUSD superintendent John Deasy, the L.A. Fund has raised $9 million in private donations. Says Chernin, "It's about high-impact innovation that's going to change the way things operate" -- by, for instance, providing breakfasts for each of the district's 650,000 students. Technology programs and new school governance models also are on the horizon, as is an initiative to revitalize the arts in a district that has lost $1.5 billion in budget cuts during the past three years. Chernin approached CBS Corp. president and CEO Moonves about contributing bus ads and billboards (CBS Outdoor controls more of them than any other company in North America) displaying original works by the likes of artist Barbara Kruger that trumpet the importance of arts education. "CBS is one of the top 10 employers in L.A.," says Moonves. "There's poverty on one side of town, and on the other, we're spending hundreds of millions in the entertainment industry. There shouldn't be this big divide between the networks and studios and what's going on with the schools."
Photographed by Kwaku Alston on July 17 at Melrose Elementary School in Hollywood
"When I was talking with Les, I told him that 80 percent of L.A. school students live in poverty, and he said, 'Did you just say 18?' No, it's 80 percent!" -- Megan Chernin, L.A. Fund co-founder
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