EAST LOS ANGELES : Latinos Targeted in School Voucher Fight

Opponents of Proposition 174, the school voucher initiative, have set up an East Los Angeles office with the goal of contacting 30,000 registered Latino voters before the Nov. 2 election.

The initiative would radically alter California's public school system by giving parents vouchers that could be used toward tuition at public and private schools.

Proponents of the measure also have plans to set up an office on the Eastside and have been meeting with officials of parochial schools and community groups. They believe their message will be viewed most favorably by parochial-school parents.

With an estimated 60% of the Los Angeles Unified School District's students of Latino descent, Proposition 174 opponents on the Eastside say they are targeting those who would be most affected by the measure.

A pool of volunteers have already contacted more than 1,000 registered voters through a phone bank operation, and found nearly 60% opposed to the plan, according to officials of the new office. Volunteers plan to start door-to-door canvassing on the Eastside in October.

"The people who will be hurt by (Proposition 174) will be the people who have no choice but to go to public schools," said Elsa Casillas, who operates the Boyle Heights office with Conrado Terrazas.

Terrazas said any cut in the school district's budget as a result of parents using vouchers to send their children to private or parochial schools would hurt students who have no choice but to stay in the public schools.

"This is not the answer to the public school problems," Terrazas said.

But Andrew Cunningham, who supports the initiative, said, "One of the things is that many parents are sending their children to parochial and private schools, and that would help them out a little bit." He said the measure would make public schools more competitive and would not have a negative impact on Eastside public schools.

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