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LA Opens Costliest School – $578,000,000

From a cheering Associated Press:

LA unveils $578M school, costliest in the nation

By Christina Hoag, Associated Press Writer Sun Aug 22, 2010

LOS ANGELES – 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.

Alas, the Ambassador Hotel has a storied history beyond RFK’s assassination. It was the glamour spot during the golden era of Hollywood, housing as it did the famous ‘Cocoanut Grove’ ballroom.

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…

So what? It’s not like Los Angeles and California don’t have money to burn. 

At RFK, the features include fine art murals and a marble memorial depicting the complex’s namesake, a manicured public park, a state-of-the-art swimming pool and preservation of pieces of the original hotel.

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 LA 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.

Again, money is no object. Besides, who can deny that such spending hasn’t put the LA schools’ students at the top of the list of achievers?

(Which, of course is why the LA teacher’s union is fighting publishing student scores tooth and nail.)

The pricey schools have come during a sensitive period for the nation’s second-largest school system: Nearly 3,000 teachers have been laid off over the past two years, the academic year and programs have been slashed. The district also faces a $640 million shortfall and some schools persistently rank among the nation’s lowest performing.


Los Angeles is not alone, however, in building big. Some of the most expensive schools are found in low-performing districts — New York City has a $235 million campus; New Brunswick, N.J., opened a $185 million high school in January.

The old ‘other people are doing it, too’ defense.

Nationwide, dozens of schools have surpassed $100 million with amenities including atriums, orchestra-pit auditoriums, food courts, even bamboo nooks. The extravagance has led some to wonder where the line should be drawn and whether more money should be spent on teachers

And never mind that the Democrats just rewarded such lavish spending with $26 billion taxpayer dollars — more.

But why are we spending anywhere near these numbers on ‘education’? It obviously has not done a bit of good.

Maybe if we lowered taxes parents could work fewer hours. Then they could spend more time teaching their children. They are bound to do a better job.

Some experts say it’s not all flourish and that children learn better in more pleasant surroundings.

And their evidence for this is what, exactly?

Many schools incorporate large windows to let in natural light and install energy-saving equipment, spending more upfront for reduced bills later. Cafeterias are getting fancier, seeking to retain students who venture off campus. Wireless Internet and other high-tech installations have become standard

Yes, you know how expensive windows are. And that internet stuff (which is probably donated) is outrageously expensive.

Construction costs at LA Unified are the second-highest in the nation — something the district blames on skyrocketing material and land prices, rigorous seismic codes and unionized labor

Notice the order here. Never mind that “unionized labor” was surely the biggest cost.

On top of that, each project had its own cost drivers.

After buildings were demolished at the site of the 2,400-student Roybal school, contaminated soil, a methane gas field and an earthquake fault were discovered. A gas mitigation system cost $17 million.

Over 20 years, the project grew to encompass a dance studio with cushioned maple floors, a modern kitchen with a restaurant-quality pizza oven, a 10-acre park and teacher planning rooms between classrooms.

The 1,700-student arts school was designed as a landmark, with a stainless steel, postmodernistic tower encircled by a rollercoaster-like swirl, while the RFK site involved 15 years of litigation with historic preservationists and Donald Trump, who wanted to build the world’s tallest building there. The wrangling cost $9 million.

Methane mitigation cost $33 million and the district paid another $15 million preserving historic features, including a wall of the famed Cocoanut Grove nightclub and turning the Paul Williams-designed coffee shop into a faculty lounge

This should be an education for the Los Angeles taxpayers. But it probably won’t.

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, August 23rd, 2010. Comments are currently closed.

16 Responses to “LA Opens Costliest School – $578,000,000”

  1. bousquem says:

    I wonder how long before everything starts falling apart, being stolen, and things are vandalized with graffiti. Also watch another series of articles come out eventually about how the school district can’t afford to the upkeep and supplying schools like this. Also the paying of teachers for all the extra classrooms they’ve added on for classes that will probably not exist or only exist for a year before budget cuts hit again.

  2. tranquil.night says:

    Even if New Orleans public housing is still a disaster, apparently the School Voucher system has been a near total success. 70% of New Orleans students are going to attend charter schools this year, and it’s now the most market-oriented education system in the country. The system was passed in 2008 after the State took over control of the Public system, which was obliterated in Katrina. http://biggovernment.com/reasontv/2010/08/20/the-new-orleans-school-voucher-program/#more-159037

    The blue-print is still out there, even if Obama torched the DC system.

    It took a hurricane to correct the course of education in Louisianna. Similarly it will take the coming economic hurricane to – we can hope – evoke the same path here in California. Oh, but these hundred million dollar monuments and temples they’re erecting to and for themselves shan’t be standing long.

    • JohnMG says:

      …..”It took a hurricane to correct the course of education in Louisianna……”

      Every once in a while the Good Lord sees fit to flush the toilet!

  3. Rusty Shackleford says:

    Looks like Star Fleet Academy.

    How fitting.

  4. proreason says:

    It’s kind of like giving a big diamond ring to a pole dancer who has been married four times.

  5. Liberals Demise says:

    Oh…I see.
    This is where Juan Pedro points at the building and sez, “Dis ez whar eys sold drugs an got tree anglos pregoed before droppin’ owt.”

    Nothing like a monument to “dis functionality”.

  6. oldpuppydixie says:

    Four thousand black and Mexican gang members, drug sellers and welfare recipients, all living in STYLE…for the year or so before they drop out. Hard to believe Kalifornia has a budget crisis, ain’t it!!!

  7. Mae says:

    If you live in L. A. (my home for 45 years), you will know what a trashy, filthy city it has become. The downtown sidewalks are full of gum, bird droppings, food wrappers, pathetic drunks, drug addicts, panhandlers, gangbangers, and beyond noisy foot traffic, much of which are scam artists trying to sell you a green card or a knock-off “Rolex”. Anything to the south of 5th Street and east of Wall is a rundown mess (the north area being city and county facilities and skyscraper office buildings). There might be one or two buildings which are properly maintained by the owners and don’t have pee or vomit on the bricks, but they are few and far between. A far cry from the city I entered in 1963 where shopping after work at all the great multi-story department stores, then walking home in the dark with no feel of threat, was a delightful every-day occurrence and spending a Saturday picnicking in the now-dilapidated MacArthur Park a restful respite. The great Wilshire or Sunset boulevards which snake around from the downtown area to the Pacific Ocean are still a delight to drive but just don’t look too closely at the grime at curbside or against the embankments. For all this in 2010 you get taxed up the wazoo, accused of racism and/or being anti-immigrant and a penny-pincher to boot, plus terrorized by young thugs marking up the seats and windows on the buses. Getting out saved my mind and my pocketbook. I hate LA.

    • Rusty Shackleford says:

      Mae that’s a very sad tale. I’m not surprised but saddened just the same. Indeed, I watch the old “Adam-12” TV series on Retro TV and note the area and what it looked like then. Interestingly, Jack Webb, the producer of “Dragnet” fame, wanted it to be as realistic as possible and introduced the drug scene just as it was doing in reality.

      Urban decay can be the socialists major “achievement”. High taxes, “affordable” housing, all this “equality” enforced on people who have the mobility and desire to leave and they do so. Then the socialists are mystified as to why. Truly, they don’t have the ability to evaluate and understand it. I live in Phoenix for 20 years and you can see the same thing there. People of the middle class who have standards, decent education, who are dedicated to their families and their jobs don’t like it when socialism hits their neighborhood and they move away. No mystery at all.

      Detroit is perhaps the crown jewel of socialist city planning. Take all the tax money and throw it down the rat hole to people who actually think they are entitled to it. Then when the money runs out…voila, instant decay. Sure, there are nice areas in the Detroit area and that’s almost all you can find when you google “Detroit, photos” these days because most of the horrific photos of the rundown bad areas have been scrubbed. But with a little clever searching you can find them still.

      The rich areas are indeed immune from the blight as they are heavily laden with great wealth. But the middle class has largely left and the poor…..well, I don’t know where they went but there ain’t much reason to stick around. Ain’t no obama-bucks to be had from his stash.

      Socialism is always a failure. The road to hell is paved with socialism. Anyone who thinks otherwise is living in a box or has serious misfirings of the brain. There are now countless examples of what happens when government takes money from those who earn it and gives it to those who don’t. They always want more. They never stop. They are never satisfied. You can trace this problem all the way back to biblical times.

      Again, P J O’Rourke said it best: “You cannot end poverty by giving poor people money”. And that includes housing, clothing, food, etc. Humans are mammals and mammals will always take the path that requires the least energy. The thing that really chaps my ass though is when you point out their laziness, they get angry. The insults fly, the rationalizations as to why they are in the spot they are…..oh…it’s unbelievable.

    • proreason says:

      that’s what NYC was like before Guiliani.

      Every libwit city gets there withing a few decades.

  8. DANEgerus says:

    Call it a prep-school for Pelican Bay Penitentiary.

  9. P. Aaron says:

    A school that expensive; test scores will no doubt improve.

  10. Mae says:

    Rusty: L. A., of course, is a very large city square-mile-wise, and West Los Angeles has some nice pockets of sanity. Hollywood Boulevard is a joke, though, with cracked sidewalks full of tributes to the famous. Century City is right next door to Beverly Hills and composed of mostly tall buildings, restaurants, a shopping mall and pavement and the great expanse of the L. A. Country Club. Westwood, where UCLA is, was in 2008 prior to my moving out, extremely rundown…all the great old movie theaters have a need for refurbishment and clean-up. Doubt it’s changed any in two years. South and East L. A. are tragedies. Can’t tell you how exciting a city it was in 1963, with all the great clubs, eateries, fine stores, clean apartment houses (both exterior and interior) and wonderful old office buildings like the black and gold Atlantic Richfield structure. I used to walk around Lafayette Park on Wilshire, and further west from MacArthur, just to spend a day outdoors looking at the old stately homes. Rather than “Adam 12” (somewhat gritty for its time), it’s more “Blade Runner” (set in 2012??) now. It’s more than sad, it’s criminal. I always had a love/hate relationship with that city. The love is gone.

    • Rusty Shackleford says:

      I understand. And I was trying to say, between the lines, that it WAS a neat, fun place. My uncle lived there from just before the time you mentioned and was a fireman, later a fire chief in LA County. He watched as it disintegrated from the same perspective, raised three fine men whom I admire and respect.

      And Pro said it simply. “Every libwit city gets there eventually”.


      “We MUST take care of the poor”.

      Nope. Nothing about my psyche tells me that we “must”. There is something about me that says I should have sympathy and be kind to those less fortunate. But it’s not mandatory. Again why? Because there are conditions.

      When I was much younger, I used to work at a car dealer cleaning cars for delivery. I would take my lunch at a really neat diner nearby and I would walk there. Every day I passed by a homeless guy who looked really pathetic and was dirty and probably had a continuous BAC of about .3 or higher. One day, feeling pretty good, I gave him a 5 dollar bill.

      The lesson there was this: I had to stop going to the diner as he would accost me regularly for more money. Finally I had to push him away when he grabbed my arm and DEMANDED I give him money. I was 18. It imprinted on my memory permanently. It still makes me mad…the way his eyes looked, the way he got spit all over me when he was yelling at me, the SMELL.

      I say no.

      Less fortunate? More like…a choice that he made long ago that put him there. Sympathy? Perhaps but like I said, it’s conditional. Everyone here in this nation has the opportunity to be whatever they want. And, if they have the talent and drive to succeed, it can be done. What people often forget that if they fail to make it to the top, well, coming in second in this nation is still pretty darn good. For that matter, so are third, fourth and even fortieth.

      A person in this nation can still do comparatively well with a job and no bad habits to support. I recall the story of the college kid in the 80’s who….as a project, sought to see how he would do as a homeless person. He lived in a box, and would do odd jobs. Saved his money, ate what he could find, sometimes a handout, sometimes from dumpsters. He eventually saved enough money to get a small room. He found steady work at a meat packing plant. He showed up on time, clean, ready to work. After 8 weeks the manager was impressed and offered him a better position and higher wages.

      Now, this all happened during his summer off and he had to spill the beans about his project.

      Not sure if he could’ve done the same nowadays with so much unemployment but the point was…he started with nothing and had no chemical problems (a choice) and was able to get established. Of course, he had no mental problems and a working set of scruples as well. Many homeless are fighting the uphill battle, to be sure. But more often than not, it often comes down to a choice or choices they made and they are living the logical conclusion of those choices.

      Like my dad said, “You make your own luck”.

  11. Mae says:

    Every sympathy should be given to those who deserve it and sorrow for their lost souls. However, monetary handouts are not the best way to help, as you know. I used to run off copies of the various flyers the city has available indicating where help both private and governmental could be obtained, carry 4-5 with me in my bag, and hand them out when asked for money. Only a few times was I thanked for the info. Now that is sad. On rare occasions I did give some bills, on one occasion a young man actually took my hand and kissed it when I gave him $5. Other times I gave money was on the bus, paying the fare for someone who did not have enough; or buying a hot dog from a street vendor for someone who plead hunger; one street woman, who was so incredibly dirty it was truly shocking, I took into a discount store and purchased some soap, a hairbrush, shampoo, some towels, a dress and a few food items that she could take back to the fleabag room the city was renting for her. Around the various courthouses and actually Parker Center (the old police department) stand and lay men, women and skinny dogs awaiting handouts. I suppose every large city has such problems and that only those with complete desire and motivation can find a way out of this nightmare, but it is beyond most of them. Nothing short of a change of heart is the answer and so giving money to the Union Rescue Mission and like organizations is best since they know how to do good work with whatever they have. Those who may dispute this depressing picture have never gotten out of their vehicles and walked the streets. I suggest they do that tomorrow. There are lots of rich “do-gooders” in L.A but the problems are never-ending. And so, yes, we who can, move away, glad to have made it out intact.

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