NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Los Angeles Unveils The Costliest School In The Nation

August 24, 2010

Next month's opening of the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools in Los Angeles 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, says the Associated Press (AP). 

  • 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.
  • 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. 

Not everyone is enthusiastic. 

"New buildings are nice, but when they're run by the same people who've given us a 50 percent dropout rate, they're a big waste of taxpayer money," says Ben Austin, executive director of Parent Revolution who sits on the California Board of Education.  "Parents aren't fooled." 

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

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, and 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, says the AP. 

Source: Christina Hoag, "LA unveils $578M school, costliest in the nation," Associated Press/Yahoo News, August 22, 2010. 


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