Hollywood is giving back to Los Angeles public schools.
On Monday, according to the New York Times, the Los Angeles Unified School District unveiled a new specialized magnet school launched with funding from George Clooney, Don Cheadle, Eva Longoria, and execs at the Creative Arts Agency.
The Roybal School of Film and Television Production, housed within the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center, will open in the fall of 2022 with a budget of $7 million and an initial enrolment of 120 students.
Clooney first floated the idea to C.A.A. co-chairman Bryan Lourd, who got district officials to agree to the plan in just a matter of days.
“We thought this would be a lot longer process,” Clooney told the NYT, “but we found we were pushing an open door.”
He added, “Nobody is better at guilting a studio or union or guild into stepping up. It’s what we do.”
The school will help develop in students in underserved communities the skills required to succeed in the film and television industry in Hollywood.
“We’re unlocking for the first time in Los Angeles a whole set of community members who historically have not been engaged in our public schools,” said Austin Beutner, a wealth investor and schools superintendent. “Our students don’t live next door to makeup artists and set designers, or have family friends who are actors or songwriters. People who don’t walk a mile in their shoes don’t understand what a difference it can make — just the sense that they belong, and that these are things that they could do, too.”
Clooney also told Deadline, “Our aim is to better reflect the diversity of our country. That means starting early. It means creating high school programs that teach young people about cameras, and editing and visual effects and sound and all the career opportunities that this industry has to offer. It means internships that lead to well-paying careers. It means understanding that we’re all in this together.”
Announcement of the new school came a week after music producers Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine announced plans for a similar specialized school in South Los Angeles focused on music.
These types of schools, backed by philanthropy, have faced criticism, though.
Sarah Reckhow, an expert on education philanthropy at Michigan State University, told the NYT of the kind of influence wealthy individuals can have on school systems, “It’s very typical and very unequal and it often just compounds other inequalities.”
Beutner said, though, that his work to build career-linked magnet schools can give a “margin of excellence beyond what public funding can do.
“It’s making the instructional part of the day relevant, embedding those skills in the curriculum and connecting it to a job.”