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Hector Tobar: A bet on schools that could go bad

July 7, 2009 | 10:22 am

Hector toba head A Latino graduate went deeply into debt on student loans in hopes of improving local education. Then the recession changed the odds, writes columnist Hector Tobar.

Antonio Plascencia Jr. went into debt for California. Big time. He placed a five-figure bet on your kids and their schools. And it's a gamble he could lose.

Plascencia got into this predicament because he's a wonky 25-year-old from the barrios of East Los Angeles and El Monte. He gets angry when he thinks about those high school friends who couldn't write a coherent paragraph and the teachers who accepted this sad truth without complaint.

When he graduated from El Monte High, he was a good student with an unspectacular 3.4 grade-point average. But he worked hard at Loyola Marymount University and latched onto a dream.

He would infiltrate Southern California's ailing public school system and change it from the inside, announcing to everyone that underachievement in barrio communities would no longer be tolerated.

To do this, he needed training. So he interned, networked and fought his way into one of the best boot camps for aspiring public servants in the United States -- the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy Studies.

His plan was to come back home to California this summer and, with his newly minted master's degree, get a job and start to "make a little trouble" in the education bureaucracy.

Everything was going smoothly -- until the budget crisis hit.

Read more of Tobar's column here.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City

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