Public School Spending Like There’s No Tomorrow

The failed and bankrupt Los Angeles public school district is spending money like there’s no tomorrow—which for the students it’s failing to educate is unfortunately true.

The school district, currently running a $640 million deficit, is spending $578 million—about $140,000 per student—on a new, 24-acre school in the middle of Los Angeles. At the same time, the district has laid off 3,000 teachers over the past 2 years, and has the second lowest graduation rate in the country, at 40.6%.

L.A. claims to spend about $10,000 per student. But, as this article reveals, its actual per-pupil budget is $29,790, in stark contrast to private school spending:

Based on federal data, we estimate the typical private school in the L.A. area spends just under $8,500 to educate each student, and many far less. L.A. Unified, at almost $30,000, spends over 250 percent more.

The new $578 million Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex offers an auditorium with a starry ceiling; murals of Robert F. Kennedy and other public art totaling $1.3 million; a marble slab engraved with quotes by Cesar Chavez, Maya Angelou, and Ted Kennedy; and $54,000 talking benches that play a three-hour audio of the site’s history (it is built on the site of the old Ambassador Hotel, where Robert Kennedy was shot, and the school district had to fight Donald Trump to buy it).

The school district also spent $232 million for its new Visual and Performing Arts High school, and $377 million for a school originally budgeted at $110 million and that now ranks in the bottom third for students with similar demographics on state tests.

Voters need to quit enabling these profligate officials and start voting No on every school bond issue that makes it to the ballot. Dance studios with cushioned maple floors and kitchens with restaurant-quality pizza ovens don’t provide quality educations, and neither do unaccountable public school districts.

Mary L. G. Theroux is Senior Vice President of the Independent Institute. Having received her A.B. in economics from Stanford University, she is Managing Director of Lightning Ventures, L.P., a San Francisco Bay Area investment firm, former Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Salvation Army of both San Francisco and Alameda County, and Vice President of the C.S. Lewis Society of California.
Full Biography
Beacon Posts by Mary Theroux
  • Catalyst