LAUSD Defends Big Spending as “Modernizing”

Officials from the Los Angeles Unified School District  (LAUSD) appeared before a joint hearing of the Senate and Assembly education committees, and what was most alarming was the massive spending on new school construction and renovations, writes Katy Grimes at the Cal Watchdog.

Mark Hovatter, in charge of contracts for LAUSD facilities department, presented a report prepared by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation:

“Founded in 1981, the LAEDC was created by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to implement LA County’s economic development program through land development, project financing and marketing activities,” the LAEDC website states.

Hovatter believes that, through acquiring land and building new schools, LAUSD has been “modernizing” since the late 1990s. And Hovatter appeared proud to report that 132 new schools have been built by the district.

“I get invited to speak a lot. It’s something we are very proud of,” he said.

Hovatter boasted that 331,000 jobs were created over a 15-year period that cost $19 billion in construction and improvements for the LAUSD.

“There are 24,000 modernization projects right now,” he added. “But we still need modernization projects. It’s exciting to see a new school and drive through a transformed neighborhood.”

Lance Izumi, Koret Senior Fellow and senior director of education studies at the Pacific Research Institute, CalWatchdog’s parent think tank, was critical of the LAUSD spending in light of declining enrollment and California’s bleak economic crisis.

Izumi said the LAUSD’s wasteful spending on construction projects included the $578 million Robert F. Kennedy High School, “the most expensive government-run school in this nation’s history.”

LAUSD voluntarily increased costs by agreeing to employ only union labor through Project Labor Agreements, despite evidence from throughout California that such agreements contribute to higher construction costs, writes Grimes.

LAUSD has 885 schools, 668,000 students, 37,000 teachers and 40,000 “other” personnel, such as counselors, nurses, janitors and administrative staff.

The school district is the second largest school district in the nation and covers most of Los Angeles County’s 31 cities, and more than 700 square miles.

RFK High School costs did not come under question, or the $337 million Edward Roybal Learning Center or the $232 million Visual and Performing Arts High School. This comes to $1.2 billion in new construction for the LAUSD.