Tuesday, August 24, 2010

So who was actually in charge of this fiasco?

If you haven't heard about the $578 million dollar K-12 facility that was just recently constructed in the Los Angeles Unified School District, then you don't pay enough attention to the news.

This story has been done to death on the Internets and on the talk radio circuit. I just have one angle to add that I have yet to hear. I was struck by the non-chalant, detached passivity of the comments by district officials and other defenders of the cost of the site in the widely distributed AP article:

"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..."

In Los Angeles, officials say the new schools were planned long before the economic pinch and are funded by $20 billion in voter-approved bonds that do not affect the educational budget... (Oh, that makes me feel much better. I'm glad they cleared that up. -W.R. Chandler)

Still, even LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines derided some of the extravagance, noting that donations should have been sought to fund the RFK project's talking benches commemorating the site's history.
Connie Rice, member of the district's School Bond Oversight Committee, noted the megaschools are only three of 131 that the district is building to alleviate overcrowding. RFK "is an amazing facility," she said. "Is it a lot of money? Yes. We didn't like it, but they got it done..."

James Sohn, the district's chief facilities executive, said the megaschools were built when global raw material shortages caused costs to skyrocket to an average of $600 per square foot in 2006 and 2007 — triple the price from 2002. Costs have since eased to $350 per square foot...

Sohn said LA Unified has reached the end of its Taj Mahal building spree. "These are definitely the exceptions," he said. "We don't anticipate schools costing hundreds of millions of dollars in the future."
All these quotes have an air about them that seems to blame the cost of the facility on some sort of mystical force that was apparently beyond the power of the chief facilities executive, the superintendent, or even the school board to contain or even address. These people are paid how much per year? Who was making the final decisions on all this crap?

These people remind me of the "Not Me" ghost in the Family Circus cartoon strip who is always standing there as the kids point the finger at someone else when a misdeed has been discovered.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free... it expects what never was, and never will be." -Thomas Jefferson

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