Commentary

How NOT to Build a School

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 ââ?¬â?? 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 ââ?¬â?? 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 the director of education and child welfare at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.

Snell has frequently testified before the California State Legislature and numerous other state legislatures and government agencies. She has authored policy studies on school finance and weighted student funding, universal preschool, school violence, charter schools, and child advocacy centers.

Snell is a frequent contributor to Reason magazine, School Reform News and Privatization Watch. Her writing has also appeared in Education Week, Edutopia, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, Orange County Register, Los Angeles Times, and numerous other publications.

Ms. Snell is also an advisory board member to the National Quality Improvement Center for the Children's Bureau; is on the charter school accreditation team for the American Academy for Liberal Education; and serves as a board member for the California Virtual Academy.

Before joining Reason Foundation, Snell taught public speaking and argumentation courses at California State University, Fullerton. She earned a Master of Arts in communication from California State University, Fullerton.