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Reason Foundation

How NOT to Build a School

Lisa Snell
July 9, 2007, 8:56am

VIA the Los Angeles Times The Belmont Learning Complex was envisioned as one of a kind. It would combine the city's first new high school in nearly 30 years with housing and retail development – extras that could raise money to help cap construction costs at about $45 million. When the school opens in 2008, at least nine years behind schedule, it will indeed make history – with its cost. The final tab will top $400 million, almost certainly claiming the title of America's most expensive high school, and there will be no retail or housing. The school, now called Vista Hermosa, was conceived in a school district that at the time lacked the expertise to build schools. The Los Angeles Unified School District has since put together the nation's largest school construction program, but the hemorrhaging continues at Belmont. Recent work expected to cost about $111 million will reach nearly $200 million instead. For all the money spent, "they probably could have built three more high schools, maybe four," said City Councilman Ed Reyes, who represents the area. "That's a very painful reality. I think 70% of the cost was not necessary." My take on the dismal state of California's school construction process here.

Lisa Snell is Director of Education


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