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California District Mothballs Newly Built $105 Million School

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

You just have to appreciate the foresight and planning ability of government. The latest stellar example comes from Riverside, California, where the Alvord Unified School District built a state-of-the-art high school. The only problem? The district now lacks the funds to hire administrators and teachers.

Most readers would probably blame the debacle on the school board’s poor planning. But remember, this is California and the rules of common sense do not apply.

Instead, this crack squad of fiscal stewards has found the true culprit: declining funds to the district.

USA Today reports:

"When the California budget goes down and income in the state goes down, funding to K-through-12 education goes with it,’ [superintendent Wendell] Tucker says. ‘We made a number of budget adjustments. Right now, we simply are out of adjustments, and it's not feasible … to open this school.

"While the soon-to-be completed school will be empty, 3,400 students attend nearby La Sierra High School, built to house fewer than half that number. Classes in the main subjects are packed with 35 to 37 students each, Tucker says. Although the new school would ease crowding, he says it would cost $3 million to open and operate it for the coming academic year.

"Jo Loss, president of the California State PTA, says Hillcrest was the first new school to be mothballed by California's budget crisis. She calls it ‘a particularly poignant example’ of declining public education.

"Parents are starting to see that their child is not getting the same education that perhaps their older child got," Loss says."

The sad fact is it doesn’t have to be this way.

A few questions for California taxpayers to consider:

Did the Alvord Unified district need to spend the equivalent of 70% of its annual revenues on one single high school?

If so, did the school board try to control construction costs by asking the state to waive unionized construction-only requirements that only jack up costs?

Now that the school board realizes that it doesn’t have the money to staff the school, has it asked its teachers union for contract concessions that might allow them to hire more employees?

I understand the school district passed a bond to fund the building and they are technically separate pots of money, but it shows an extravagance that is unsustainable.

In classic status-quo thinking, USA Today includes this line: “Once a national model for education, California has slipped to near the bottom of states ranked on per-pupil spending.”

Why does USA Today and the education establishment judge taxpayers’ commitment to public education based on how much is spent?  Analysis after analysis, including one by ABC 10 in San Diego, show there is little correlation between spending and student achievement.

But nevertheless, the establishment and much of the media continue to beat the drum for more spending.

Perhaps the school district wanted to create a local stimulus of its own? Perhaps it just built the building to create jobs? Maybe it can pass another bond to tear it down or the Obama administration can issue more stimulus to fund the wrecking crews.

Public schools are on a crash course with reality. Poor planning and lack of will to stand up to unions are only complicating the problems. The mothballed high school in Riverside is just the latest example.


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