Cash-Strapped LA Builds $578M School
And it's the district's third 'Taj Mahal'
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 23, 2010 12:40 PM CDT
In this Aug. 10, 2010 photo, the Robert F. Kennedy Learning Center is seen in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
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(Newser) – The Los Angeles Unified School District is facing a $640 million budget shortfall, but you’d never know it by looking at its newest school. The Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex will be the nation’s most expensive public school when it opens next month, clocking in at $578 million. It features fine art murals, a marble RFK memorial, a public park, a state-of-the-art pool—and it’s housed in the former Ambassador Hotel, site of RFK’s assassination, the AP reports.

LA Unified has debuted two other "Taj Mahal" schools—ones costing $100 million or more—in the past two years ... while laying off almost 3,000 teachers. Dozens of these palace-like schools exist nationwide, and include such essentials as atriums, orchestra pits, food courts, and bamboo nooks. Proponents say students learn better in more pleasant surroundings—but one critic notes, “when they're run by the same people who've given us a 50% dropout rate, they're a big waste of taxpayer money.”