Friday, June 19, 2015

CA: What Else Could We Do...?

I've just returned from a visit to my son and his fiance. They live in the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles, and over the past few years, I've noted some desultory building activity in the lots across the street from their building. But this trip, work was in full bloom.

This is not a small piece of construction, sitting on a big chunk of neighborhood. "What the heck is that?" I asked. My future daughter-in-law told me that it's a charter school. How did she know? The pastor of the church across the street told her (and, apparently, that the church was working with the charter).


I'm just looking at the construction, the huge amount of money that must be pouring into that site, and mostly I'm thinking, "What could a public school that is already in place, that already exists, that already has a lot and a building-- what could that school do with the money being poured into that charter construction?"

It's one thing to consider all this in theory, but to actually look at the pile of money that must be going into securing the lot, building the structure, adding the bells and whistles, while meanwhile back at my own school, there's basic maintenance on things like doors that won't be done this year because we're a little stretched on the budget.

What, I wonder, will not get done in a Koreatown school this year because a river of money has been diverted so that this shiny new building can go up.

You figure out opportunity costs by asking questions like, "If you had a couple million dollars to spend on your district, what are the first five things that would go on your list?" I can't imagine that there are leaders in any school district who would say, "Not spend any of it on facilities we already have, but build whole new facilities somewhere else." I mean, look at that pile of bricks. What could we build with that many bricks at a school that already exists? What could we have done with our broken-down walls if we had the money that went into that pretty orange facing?

The school may be shiny and swell. The people behind it may be bighearted and well-intentioned. But that none of that changes the fact that in order to spend the money to create a new charter school, that money had to be taken away from public schools. It seems wasteful and inefficient and just foolish.

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