Sunday, August 22, 2010

At $578 million, Los Angeles unveils the costliest school in the country

image The Los Angeles Unified School District is unveiling the costliest school in the United States. It’s the Robert F. Kennedy Community School system.

The price tag is consistent with the lifestyle of the rich and famous who populate the area:  A cool $578 million.  Yes, Five hundred, seventy eight million dollars.  For a school. 

In California, the next Greece.

This is the Los Angeles United School District, that routinely produces a 50% dropout rate and test scores with proficiency ratings approaching one-third of students.  That means for every three students taking standardized tests, only one shows proficiency in the subject matter. 

Apparently, the leaders of the LAUSD are bad at math.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Next month's opening of the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools will be auspicious for a reason other than its both storied and infamous history as the former Ambassador Hotel, where the Democratic presidential contender was assassinated in 1968.

With an eye-popping price tag of $578 million, it will mark the inauguration of the nation's most expensive public school ever.

The K-12 complex to house 4,200 students has raised eyebrows across the country as the creme de la creme of "Taj Mahal" schools, $100 million-plus campuses boasting both architectural panache and deluxe amenities.

"There's no more of the old, windowless cinderblock schools of the '70s where kids felt, 'Oh, back to jail,'" said Joe Agron, editor-in-chief of American School & University, a school construction journal. "Districts want a showpiece for the community, a really impressive environment for learning."

Not everyone is similarly enthusiastic.

What’s scary about this is that the Los Angeles Unified School District is proud of this.

I’m all for students going to school in nice, clean, well-constructed facilities that foster an atmosphere of comfort and learning.  But at $578 million, the cost-per-student is $137,619.05.  And that’s just for construction.

But this is not the first of the LAUSD’s Taj Mahal projects.  This is just the crown jewel:

Partly by circumstance and partly by design, the Los Angeles Unified School District has emerged as the mogul of Taj Mahals.

The RFK complex follows on the heels of two other L.A. schools among the nation's costliest — the $377 million Edward R. Roybal Learning Center, which opened in 2008, and the $232 million Visual and Performing Arts High School that debuted in 2009.

For those of us who learned math in the brick and mortar schools of yesteryear, that means the LAUSD has spent no less than $1.187 billion on shiny new schools that would make Al Gore blush at their opulence and splendor. 

Do you think that the people of California are getting their money’s worth?  Do you think that student test scores and dropout rates warrant spending this kind of money on the setting, rather than the readin, ritin’ and rithmetic?

Gimme some feedback in the comments.