When a public school complex costs $578 million, have we lost our minds? Give me a state-of-the-art teacher over a state-of-the-art building.

Here is one view of the nation's most expensive school campus, the $578 million Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools  in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Here is one view of the nation's most expensive school campus, the $578 million Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

The AJC has quite a story about the new $578 million public school complex opening next month in LA.

When schools are cutting days and teachers, this seems a terrible moment to unveil an architectural wonder of a campus. Yes, I think children deserve to learn in comfortable settings, although I don’t know of any research that shows kids learn more in so-called “state-of-the art” classrooms. The more important investment to me would be “state-of-the art” teachers.

Keep in mind that this is a k-12 setting that will house 4,200 students. There are three schools – elementary, middle and high school — located on the single campus.  But even then, you are still talking nearly $200 million per age group. I also don’t like the large size of the complex; I would rather drop my kids off to a smaller-scaled school building.

The complex is being built on a piece of infamous LA history. It is on the site of the former Ambassador Hotel, where Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1968. It includes 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.

Anyone a fan of the school campuses as sprawling mini metropolises?  On the college tours with my older two, I preferred the quaint campuses where everything was built around a few greens/quads rather than the bigger spreads where you needed a map to plot your course and a a motor scooter to get there.

According to the AJC story, opinions are divided on the wisdom of erecting such a monument amid the bleakest economic situation facing schools in the last 40 years.

Here is an excerpt from the story:

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.

“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,” said Ben Austin, executive director of Parent Revolution who sits on the California Board of Education. “Parents aren’t fooled.”

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.

88 comments Add your comment


August 23rd, 2010
10:00 am

Unbelievable. Yes, we’ve lost our minds.

State of the art

August 23rd, 2010
10:00 am

Any moment is a terrible moment to unveil a $578 million high school.

But as far as teachers, I wonder how many good teachers could do “state of the art” things if they were getting state of the art support? Instead of that common sense approach, we seem to believe we can compensate for every inadequacy in public education if we but take the Lake Woebegone approach and make sure every teacher is in the top 10 percent of all teachers.


August 23rd, 2010
10:07 am

And yall thought I lost my mind……….


August 23rd, 2010
10:08 am

I could not believe it when I read this story. It also mentioned other expensive schools around the country. It makes what we pay for our new schools seem like a bargain.


August 23rd, 2010
10:12 am

Folks, remember……this is La La Land…….


August 23rd, 2010
10:14 am

It’s happening in the Fulton County Schools as we write. Take a look at their “shortfall” for budget this year, and then take a look at their building budgets and opening elementary math and science charter budgets. We have a BOE who wants their legacy to be buildings and unneeded programs. Of course, they probably want to build palaces before they try and split off to become a new county too.

Oh Intown Writer...

August 23rd, 2010
10:14 am

I was told repeatedly by someone tangentially involved with APS’s $80M (then) new building downtown that someone should audit that place… They never would be more specific, but they were apparently shocked at the level of something (graft of some sort…)
I think it goes with easy money, no accountability, a disconnect from reality and a limited sphere where you’re horribly important – delusions of grandeur result…


August 23rd, 2010
10:31 am

Yep….we have lost our minds….


August 23rd, 2010
10:36 am

What’s the property tax gonna be locally??

granny godzilla

August 23rd, 2010
10:45 am

We must destroy capitalism and adopt socialism…


August 23rd, 2010
10:49 am

I remember reading about this proposed school several years ago when plans were being made to demolish the buildings on the site where the school would be built. I know this is downtown L.A., and I know nothing about the size of their city blocks, but at the time, I wondered how they could accommodate 4,000 (5-18 year old) students on one city block. I still wonder.


August 23rd, 2010
10:52 am

I imagine there are virtually no sane parents that approve of this monstrosity of a school. No, I would think the teacher’s unions are at play here. One more way to continue bankrupting our nation. Why?


August 23rd, 2010
11:02 am

Politicains (includes school board and stupidintendents) cannot hang their name on a teacher. They want their name on a plaque by the front door. Status symbol I guess. Shows they did something. My county did it. Moved out of a perfectly good building (because they moved the middle school into it out of a perfectly good middle school) because it was not good enough for high school. One year in and the students are tearing up the school. Scores have not gone up. Behavior has not improved. The foorball team has not won any more games. But, the names are on the plaque. Total and complete absurdity. I would like to cuss but that is so futile especially when done towards politricksters.

E Pluribus Unum

August 23rd, 2010
11:05 am

California limits property tax to a little over 1% of assessed value (Proposition 13).
The money came from a bond that limited spending of the funds to construction
and renovation of schools only.


August 23rd, 2010
11:13 am

It takes about three seconds of thinking to realize that a 500 million dollar building has probably been in the works for several years, perhaps a decade. Surely more than two years (when the economy collapsed). While this looks insensitive, what were they supposed to do, halt construction? This seems like a poorly considered knee-jerk reaction. Projects like this were planned long before there was any kind of budget crisis.


August 23rd, 2010
11:19 am

Perhaps Maxine Waters could be buried at this location.


August 23rd, 2010
11:21 am

Actually, California schools have been under budget-attack for years. They were consolodating 3 and 4 classrooms into the (former) gym, and removing librarians from schools – replacing with 2 clerks and a district supervisor, as just 2 examples.

It’s often the case that some sort of insanity breeds in California and seeps eastward.

Stability needed

August 23rd, 2010
11:22 am

If LA can show their commitment to children in this way, the least we can do is attempt convince Dr. Hall to stay with a new 5 year, 5 million dollar contract. It’s easily a bargain, as she’s the only person capable of providing the stability Shirley Franklin correctly pointed out is needed to guide APS through this crisis.

It’s time for the business community and taxpayers to pony up and support Dr. Hall and the children in this time of crisis.


August 23rd, 2010
11:23 am

It’s a total waste of money. I don’t care if it was planned last night or 20 years ago; you can always scale it down and cut the lavish spending.

They should have spent a lot of that money on lowering the student teacher ratio, library and text books. It would have been better spent on tutors and after school programs.

Our society has been increasingly loosing it’s ever “_____king” mines for the last 30 years.

$10,000 shower curtains
$100,000 cars
$50 million dollar homes
$500 million dollar schools

Completely insane.

Freedom Education

August 23rd, 2010
11:25 am

Granny “We must destroy capitalism and adopt socialism…”

I assume you are joking, since this has been socialism for a while. The government designed it, demanded it, and taxed the people for it.

E Pluribus Unum

August 23rd, 2010
11:28 am

I would have to admit that 578 million is an excessive amount for one school,but
the Georgia Dome was also a great deal of money to spend for a sports stadium
at the time it was built -Did the Georgia assembly allocate public funding for a private
sports team’s stadium ? At least the Georgia Dome generates revenue and business
for local merchants.

Waste Of Money

August 23rd, 2010
11:29 am

I’m sure there were plenty of unoccupied office buildings in LA that could have been retrofitted for classrooms for a fraction of the cost. I’m sure the students are really going to appreciate the “fine art murals” – maybe when they’re tagging them with spray paint. This is crazy.


August 23rd, 2010
11:30 am

Interesting conundrum at first glance it seems absurd, however the author and a number of posters opined that they would be in favor of smaller scaled building/campuses. I tend to agree, however I suspect 3 or 4 scaled down more intimate schools setting would probably cost far more than one big one. It is simply another good example of big government doing something so they can check a box and say I spent $500M on schools or roads or whatever they NEVER have real accomplishment or value in mind. This is why education should be a local issue and by that I mean smaller than city wide

E Pluribus Unum

August 23rd, 2010
11:35 am

@EnoughAlready- They could not spend the money on anything but new and
renovated construction-That was part of the constraints placed by the bond measure
that was approved by voters to guarantee that the money would be spent to build
schools for impacted areas. There were high schools that had about 4 to 5 thousand
students attending .

Really amazed

August 23rd, 2010
11:46 am

North Georgia opened up a middle school high school combo last year that also installed swimming pools. I will try to get the name and location of these two schools.

Seattle Snow

August 23rd, 2010
11:47 am

I like the building, we need more buildings like this, back when are Grandaddies had balls they would build stuff like this all the time and that gave us places like: Grand Central Station, Chicago Board of Trade, Empire State Building, Rose Bowl, Michigan Stadium, Buffalo City Hall, Chrysler Building and now what do we have a bunch of air condition office parks, even the WTC was a double elephant of buildings that symbolized the blandness of the 1970’s… remember the cookie cutter stadium phase and we will bend over backwards to build a new crib for our sports teams, yea LA more likely got hosed over Union Cost and the fact you had to at least hire 5 black one armed wheelchair bound lesbians however you cut the BS America needs to get back to building Fabulous again!

David S

August 23rd, 2010
11:49 am

Governments only cause Depressions, they certainly don’t suffer from them like the rest of society.

Of course this was funded by bonds. Citizens are WAY TOO STUPID to understand that bonds actually cost money. They are lied to by the media and the government into thinking that somehow bonds aren’t loans that must be repaid. And of course bonds NEVER cover operating expenses. This will be a huge issue for the bankrupt county and state.

When the city of LA goes completely bankrupt and ultimately defaults on their bonds, the suckers that bought them will get their due for financing this waste. Meanwhile the poor unfortunate inmates of this giant prison complex will watch their shiny new edifice crumble from neglect as all government buildings (especially the schools) are suffering in this country.

What a complete waste of money. Just think if all this money were just divided up and used to pay parents to send their kids to decent schools or homeschool them.

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August 23rd, 2010
11:56 am

The federal government keeps on sending large amount of education funds to California…especially the Obama administration. Many of the kids are children of illegal aliens that are getting educations subsidized by US taxpayers. Is this all about buying votes in the largest US state?

Old Timer

August 23rd, 2010
11:57 am

When did Americans be come so fearful of big new things and education? I can’t believe what I’m hearing?! “It’s to big”, “I like my kids to go to underfunded schools”, and “Why are we spending so much money on schools?” It’s people like you who’s education seems to be forgotten and underfunded. Way to perpetuate the cycle.


August 23rd, 2010
12:04 pm

The presumption on the part of the LA school board is that children are incapable of learning unless they are surrounded by amenities you’d typically find in a five-star hotel. Yet, my kids go to one of those old-fashioned cinder block “prisons” and they get outstanding grades — and they love school.

This is utter insanity. To the person who wondered what impact it will have on property taxes — probably none. The administration will bail out LA along with the rest of California and taxpayers in Atlanta, Minneapolis, St Louis, and Denver will wind up picking up the tab.


August 23rd, 2010
12:13 pm

Over $137,000 per student? The LA school system has lost its collective minds.


August 23rd, 2010
12:14 pm

Im surprised they dont have a Mexican flag or the flag of the now defunct USSR flying.


August 23rd, 2010
12:15 pm

hrm… this IS interesting. The same state where the governor has just mandated (again) furlough days for government employees, and is in very real danger of going bankrupt, is now opening the most costly school in the nation. We should keep this in mind when California asks for a federally funded taxpayer bailout.


August 23rd, 2010
12:15 pm

This school is K-12 school. Yes it was very expensive, but how much would it cost to build three separate schools (elementary, middle and high) in it’s place. Perhaps there was actually a cost savings because they could share the facilities. The school is very pretty, but I think there needs to be a happy medium and maybe this one is a bit overboard. But I also don’t think it is necessarily a bad thing to have some nice things in a learning environment. I have always enjoyed my jobs better when I work in a nice place, with picnic tables outside and nicer office space. I’m sure the surroundings do affect the attitude of some of the kids. With the economy it looks bad to unveil such a lavish school, but the plans for this school probably have been around for a decade, and as stated before, since it’s K-12, it may not be as overpriced as it seems.


August 23rd, 2010
12:30 pm

The sad thing is, the students in the building don’t care. It will be vandalized, desks, chairs table, etc will be destroyed. Unfortunately, American teenagers just don’t care and they will be setting a bad example for the younger kids who will be among them.

I’m a high school senior. The ceiling above me is threatening to collapse at any moment.. I would love to be in a new school like this but I know my peers.

E Pluribus Unum

August 23rd, 2010
12:48 pm

Three recent high schools have been completed over the past three years.

2008 Edward R. Roybal learning center (cost- 337 million dollars)

2009 Los Angeles Visual and Performing Arts High School (cost- 232 million dollars)

2010 Robert F. Kennedy Community School (cost-578 million dollars/multiple schools)

Link to LA Times article with picture of the school

L.A. Resident

August 23rd, 2010
12:51 pm

This school will be filled with illegal alien kids and anchor babies. The media is not doing it’s homework.This school is located in a part of L.A. that is filled with poor immigrants – legal and illegal – who are overwhelming tax-takers not tax-payers. ALL the new schools in Los Angeles are to accommodate immigrant kids who have over a 50% drop-out rate. Los Angeles is no longer an american city.


August 23rd, 2010
1:27 pm

I imagine that the real estate (dirt) alone is very expensive in downtown LA. Also, what better investment than in our children. They are, after all, our future. The narrow-minded people who vote “No” on everything, will depend on these kids within a few years. Just say “Yes” to education for all!!

Waste Of Money

August 23rd, 2010
1:41 pm

Just say “yes” to this and “yes” to that – where’s the f—ing money coming from? When you’re not working are you gonna bend over and poop out dollars to pay for school taxes?

Corruption Rules

August 23rd, 2010
1:47 pm

This school was bought and paid for with taxpayer dollars, directed by lobbyists and payoffs to all these “contractors” — who were good “friends” of the school board. A disgrace—but taxpayer funds get stolen every day by these crooks and nothing ever changes.

L.A. Resident

August 23rd, 2010
1:51 pm

justjanny you don’t get it. The only reason this school was built is because of illegal immigration. Your the narrow-minded one if you believe we will be depending on these kids in a few years. These kids have over a 50% drop-out rate and have been relying on tax-payers for everything (birth costs, health care and education) since the day they were born. They and their parents are, and will continue to be, a chronic tax burden on the state. Why is L.A. broke? These kids and their parents are a major cause of the problem. The only people who love this school are the teachers union – illegal alien kids are a gold mine to the union – the Democrat party who is trolling for voters and the latinos.


August 23rd, 2010
2:07 pm

No wonder California is broke.


August 23rd, 2010
2:25 pm

“2010 Robert F. Kennedy Community School (cost-578 million dollars/multiple schools)”

The name of the above mentioned school should be changed. Sirhan Sirhan Community School would be more fitting. The kennedys were a group of drunken frat boys and crooks.


August 23rd, 2010
2:32 pm

So good teachers and staff did not have to get pink slipped or laid off due to budget cuts because here is where the money went. I think this is BS!

double zero eight

August 23rd, 2010
2:32 pm

I doubt that the graduation rate or test scores will improve as a result of moving into this “grand facility”. The individuals that collectively made the decision to build this facility obviously lack common sense.

What ever!

August 23rd, 2010
3:14 pm

Let’s not just make it about Politics and Immigrant status. Unless you are an American Indian, you are original to this nation may are ALL immigrants of one form or another. Though you may think your ancestors had the right to come to this nation or not, and take away things that did not belonged to them. What ever, it has been done, every one has probably done some sort of corruption at one point in there life.

Chief Wiggum

August 23rd, 2010
3:58 pm

This is pure insanity. Pretty much impossible to justify that kind of cost, even for such a large school. There are several large schools in Gwinnett (9-12) that hold 3,000+ kids, and I bet none of them went over $100 million, if even close to that.

As others have said, this will have little to no bearing on test scores. I bet the impact on student retention rates is minimal.

This school is truly a monument to education excess.

bootney farnsworth

August 23rd, 2010
4:57 pm

hell, just check out Ga. Gwinnett College.
cutting edge damn near everything – and still building – yet not much of a student body.

bootney farnsworth

August 23rd, 2010
4:58 pm

somebody must be looking for a new job or about to retire and wants a legacy