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Broad Foundation donates $1 million to LA public libraries

Sarah Favot | August 30, 2016

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A student zone at the Los Angeles Public Library. (courtesy)

A student zone at the Los Angeles Public Library. (courtesy)

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation announced Tuesday that it has donated $1 million to the city’s public libraries to fund technology purchases for the libraries’ after-school homework centers used by thousands of the city’s children and teens.

The free after-school homework centers are located at 34 library branches throughout the city. The centers give students internet access and students can get help from library staff with homework, college applications and scholarship essays.

The centers have laptops, computers, tablets and printers available for students to use.

The Broad Foundation has donated $589.5 million to educational initiatives since 1999, including $144 million for public charter schools and $123 million to support public school district improvements, according to its website. A plan by the Broad Foundation leaked last year proposed expanding the number of charter schools in Los Angeles to half of all public schools. In June a new initiative, Great Public Schools Now, announced it will expand access for 160,000 students in failing schools in 10 low-income Los Angeles neighborhoods to successful schools it will help replicate or expand.

The endowment for the libraries was named in honor of Edythe Broad, Broad Foundation co-founder and wife of Eli Broad.

“When I was a child growing up in Detroit, my sister and I always went to the library, and I have such fond memories of how I could be transported through books,” Edythe Broad said in a statement. “For so many students who don’t have a place to study after school, libraries can provide a place to go. And today, libraries have so much more than books. Everything a student needs to do their homework is available at the library.”

The homework centers are often used by youth who are homeless, from low-income backgrounds and in foster care.

“We are asking our students to do so much more these days — to think critically, to solve complicated problems, despite all the distractions and challenges happening in their lives,” April Bain, an LA Unified high school math teacher, said in a statement. “You can’t think critically and solve complicated problems if you can’t hear yourself think or get internet access to complete an assignment. I love that this is providing an essential need for students — a safe, quiet space to learn.”

LA Unified re-opened all of its schools libraries when school started this month, though with under-stocked library collections filled with outdated materials.

“Many of my students don’t have computers or Internet access at home, so I encourage them to go to the public library after school to do their homework,” Phina Ihesiaba, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at KIPP Academy of Opportunity, said in a statement. “It’s great to have a safe space with the free tools and help they need.”

The latest grant follows a gift of $250,000 last year to the Library Foundation to increase the number of “student zones” in the city’s library system.

More than 100,000 children and teens use the Los Angeles Public Library.

“We are thrilled that the Broad Foundation is investing in young Angelenos through the Los Angeles Public Library,” said city librarian John F. Szabo. “Students across the city rely on their neighborhood branch libraries as an extension of their academics, taking advantage of services such as our online tutoring and coding workshops, and this gift will allow us to further our efforts to help every student succeed.”

A list of the library branches where the homework centers are located can be found here.

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