Billionaire financier Eli Broad announced Wednesday that his educational foundation is making a $10-million commitment to school reform efforts in Los Angeles.
Speaking at the Town Hall forum downtown, Broad said the Education Venture Fund is already funding programs to train principals, give private school scholarships to children in overcrowded schools, support new charter schools and train volunteers.
"We are going to seek out, identify and fund action-oriented and promising initiatives," the financial services tycoon said after introductory comments by Mayor Richard Riordan.
Broad, chairman and chief executive of SunAmerica, donated $100 million in 1999 to a foundation for programs that are not being tried because they are considered too risky by superintendents and large foundations. The grants focus on large urban districts in three areas: management (down to the principal level), governance and labor relations.
In an interview, Broad said the foundation is concentrating its efforts in school districts such as Chicago, Seattle and San Diego, where the superintendents are known as innovators. But he said that he felt an obligation to work with the Los Angeles Unified School District because he is based in this city.
Among the foundation's efforts is a project with the Teachers Union Reform Network to develop a model collective bargaining agreement oriented toward quality teaching rather than work rules and grievances, he said.
While reiterating his opposition to vouchers as the solution to problems in the nation's public schools, Broad said he is funding a stopgap measure in Los Angeles to provide 1,700 private school scholarships to low-income families in neighborhoods where schools are crowded.
In a survey of private schools, the foundation found that many in those same neighborhoods have empty seats that could be used until the district builds more schools.