State Schools Chief Pledges Aid for Troubled District

California's top education official toured the cash-starved Compton Unified School District on Wednesday, promising to repair aging buildings, provide new books and join with parents and civic groups to promote safety.

State Supt. of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin visited one elementary school and two high schools in the district, which fell into state receivership in 1993 with a $20-million debt and a record of poor test scores. The local school board was stripped of its power when the state took control and has filed a lawsuit to wrest back its former authority.

"I consider it elitist at best and racist at worst to say that poor children can't learn," Eastin said.

It was the first visit to the district by a state superintendent. In a round-table with reporters, she said she may ask an independent law firm to review the district's legal fees, which local school board members say are exorbitant.

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