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Singer headlines P&G anti-dropout promotion

The Associated Press, Thursday, June 30, 2011, 7:01am (PDT)

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Singer-songwriter John Legend will headline a Procter & Gamble Co. promotion to benefit dropout prevention as part of his broad support of education reform.

The winner of 11 Grammy awards has made commercials that will air ahead of P&G coupon insert booklets with him on the cover with schoolchildren that will be in Sunday newspapers on July 31. The promotion by the Cincinnati-based consumer products giant will include Facebook and other online efforts to raise money for the Communities in Schools organization's efforts to keep children in school.

Legend has focused much of his charitable work on improving education, which he calls "a civil rights issue for our time." He said there's a dropout crisis in some impoverished communities, making it harder to break the cycle of poverty. He's also concerned about what he sees as politically motivated efforts to weaken teachers' unions in his native Ohio and other states.

"I believe that making sure that every kid has a quality education is the key to making sure that every kid has the opportunity to pursue the American dream," Legend told The Associated Press.

P&G's Jim Leish, director of U.S. operations, said Legend is a good choice for the promotion. "At the end of the day, he has a history of helping this cause," Leish said. "We're more focused with his ability to drive awareness of what we can do to keep millions of kids in school."

Legend is tied to the documentary "Waiting for Superman," which depicts innovative educators around the country trying to turn around struggling schools. It at times portrays teachers' unions as hindering their efforts. The movie, to which Legend contributed his song "Shine" for the closing credits, has been cited by Ohio Gov. John Kasich and other officials as they have pushed new restrictions on the collective bargaining of teachers and other public employees.

"It's interesting, because unfortunately, I think sometimes some of these governors are using the film as a kind of political tool to crush unions, which have often been an important source for organizing for Democrats," Legend said.

He said he thinks some Republican governors such as Kasich are trying to weaken unions under the guise of saying they're going to improve the schools when the goal is to make sure they win the next election. Legend said "demonizing" teachers isn't the answer to education reform, but rather increasing teacher accountability and performance is important

"To the extent that unions are in the way of making that happen, they need to get out of the way," said Legend, 32, who was homeschooled before attending Springfield (Ohio) North High School and the University of Pennsylvania.

Asked for a response to the comments by Legend, who will perform in Cleveland and Columbus next weekend as part of his current tour with Sade, Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said: "We welcome John back to Ohio and hope he has a great show."

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Online:

http://www.communitiesinschools.org

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Contact the reporter at http://www.twitter.com/dansewell

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