Bill Cosby Says State Should Increase Help for New Orleans Schools

Standing on the front steps of one of New Orleans' most troubled schools, comedian Bill Cosby said the education and well-being of the city's children are not getting the attention and support they deserve from the state.

Cosby lent his celebrity status to a group pushing for improvements in city schools. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the state has taken over most of the city's schools from the problem-plagued local school board, and many of those schools are suffering from teacher shortages and overcrowded classrooms, among other problems.

"It's a great disrespect for children," said Cosby, standing in a chilly rain at John McDonogh High School.

The 69-year-old entertainer first visited the school in October to bring attention to the building's condition and the overall education of students.

Local and state education officials met Tuesday with Cosby and a group calling itself the Downtown Neighborhoods Improvement Association of New Orleans. Among the improvements Cosby and the group are requesting are a lower student-teacher ratio, reduction in the number of security guards on school campuses and hiring of more counselors, social workers and psychologists.

John McDonogh is among the city's most run-down schools. Even before Katrina, it had a history of violence. A 15-year-old student was shot to death there in April 2003.

After the storm, it was one of scores of faltering public schools taken over by the state and run by the Education Department's Recovery District.