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Reason Foundation

Money into a Black Hole: California Education Edition

Lisa Snell
July 26, 2010, 2:40pm

As Californians continue to face $20 billion or so state deficit and school districts are posting huge deficits, laying off employees, and shortening the school year, let's take a a quick media spin and consider a round-up of recent stories on California's wasted education dollars.

Three of the 21 high schools randomly sampled lacked sufficient records to enable a thorough audit. At the other 18 campuses, investigators selected and counted the stock of 10 titles.

Among the findings:

* 87,332 copies of the 10 texts were supposed to be on the shelves, but only 42,374 copies were found.

* Two schools each exceeded $600,000 worth of missing inventory.

* In one year, two schools lost 2,036 of 13,274 copies of the 10 texts, which would cost $222,555 to replace.

Regarding excess book purchases, the findings were no better. The total value of extra, unused books at one school exceeded $600,000; at another, the figure was $550,000.

Statewide, the practice costs school districts $30 million to $125 million extra each year, taxpayer money that shouldn't be wasted at any time, but especially not in the middle of a recession, said California legislators who are investigating the practice. In San Francisco, for example, the district will spend $60,000 more than it perhaps should this summer on a new elementary school roof because the bidding process limited competition by specifying a precise kind of roof sold by a particular manufacturer.


Lisa Snell is Director of Education


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