By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | LA Daily News
01/26/2010 07:53:57 PM PST - Recognizing the hardship Haiti's massive earthquake will inflict on the country's students, the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education unanimously approved a relief plan Tuesday that calls for sending district staff to help with rebuilding efforts.
LAUSD board member and author of the plan Steve Zimmer said the idea was to put the district's nationally recognized crisis-response team and school construction division to use in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
LAUSD is completing a $27 billion school construction project, the largest in the nation's history, and the district's crisis-response services are used as models across the state and country.
"As a district we may struggle with a lot of things, but we know how to build schools and we know how to deal with human crisis," Zimmer said.
"This is a very specific way that we as a district can help."
Zimmer's proposal would also centralize all of the district's fund-raising efforts, including moneys donated by employees through paycheck deductions, and it would funnel them to three specific non-profits already working in Haiti: Doctors Without Borders, Red Cross of America, and Habitat for Humanity.
While board member Yolie Flores supported the plan, she did question whether the district was in the financial position to help, as it struggles with a massive deficit that could top $600 million.
"I just don't want to oversell what we can do," Flores said.
Zimmer's resolution starts the process of studying how the district can help with relief efforts but more details need to be worked out before the plan can be implemented.
Zimmer said the district would coordinate relief efforts with other government agencies and nonprofits to keep expenses down.