The Scientology movement's Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education has befriended one of America's most celebrated teachers, Jaime Escalante of Garfield High School.
Escalante is the East Los Angeles teacher profiled in the hit 1988 film "Stand and Deliver," which chronicled his success in teaching advanced calculus to barrio students.
During the last few years, the foundation has provided Escalante with tens of thousands of dollars for computers, audiovisual aids, tutors and scholarships. In addition, the foundation has solicited contributions from major corporations to help Escalante's Garfield High mathematics program grow in size and sophistication.
In fact, the foundation has been Escalante's primary benefactor.
He is now teaming up with the foundation to develop a series of 12 educational videos for distribution by the Public Broadcasting System. Called "Futures," the series is intended to motivate students by showing them the relevancy of math in the workplace. The foundation's president will be the executive producer, while Escalante will be host of the series.
Escalante says he was unaware of the foundation's links to Scientology. "No, no," he said, "they (foundation officials) never mentioned that name." But, he added, it makes no difference.
"From my point of view," he said, "I really don't mind what they are. The only thing I care about is that they help my students, my kids. That's my main goal."
The foundation, for its part, has not been reticent about publicizing its support of Escalante. Its promotional literature regularly includes photographs of Escalante in his classroom or standing side-by-side with beaming foundation executives.