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Education The Almighty Buck News

Los Angeles Unveils $578 Million Public School 367

Posted by Soulskill
from the passing-out-hundreds-in-the-lunch-line dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from an Associated Press report on next month's opening of the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools in Los Angeles: "With an eye-popping price tag of $578 million, it will mark the inauguration of the nation's most expensive public school ever. The K-12 complex to house 4,200 students has raised eyebrows across the country as the creme de la creme of 'Taj Mahal' schools, $100 million-plus campuses boasting both architectural panache and deluxe amenities. ... At RFK, the features include fine art murals and a marble memorial depicting the complex's namesake, a manicured public park, and a state-of-the-art swimming pool. 'There's no more of the old, windowless cinderblock schools of the '70s where kids felt, "Oh, back to jail,"' said Joe Agron, editor-in-chief of American School & University, a school construction journal. 'Districts want a showpiece for the community, a really impressive environment for learning.' ... Critics note that nearly 3,000 teachers have been laid off over the past two years, the academic year and programs have been slashed, the district faces a $640 million shortfall and some schools persistently rank among the nation's lowest performing."
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Los Angeles Unveils $578 Million Public School

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    a mosque [nytimes.com]?

    Thanks in advance.

    Yours In Astrakhan,
    K. Trout

    • Re:Does It Have (Score:5, Insightful)

      by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:13PM (#33348082)
      No, but some graffiti or an earthquake will turn their precious fine art murals and marble memorial into nostalgia discussed in the teachers' lounge.
      • ...or an earthquake will turn their precious fine art murals and marble memorial into nostalgia....

        You're buying a little too heavily into a Los Angeles stereotype, there. Unless you believe we don't have any Art museums here. ;)

        • You're buying a little too heavily into a Los Angeles stereotype, there. Unless you believe we don't have any Art museums here. ;)

          Having grown up in Southern California I know that any vertical surface in a school is a magnet for graffiti. The earthquakes, well, if this new school was built with the same quality control as the schools I attended someone slamming a door may be enough to trigger the first domino.

          Any *real* museum (in California or anywhere else) builds the facility with protecting the art in mind. Schools? Not so much.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by socceroos (1374367)
      Mosque you bring that up again? I'm getting jolly sick of this, sunni.
  • Hey big spender! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bovius (1243040) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:10PM (#33348030)

    I know that California's budget concerns go far beyond just the building of this school, but this is still the kind of irresponsible spending that got them into the mess they're currently in. If I were in charge of this project, I wouldn't want anyone to know about it right now.

    • It's HOLLYWOOD BABY! If it looks good, it HAS to be good. Right?
    • by garyisabusyguy (732330) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:28PM (#33348276)

      Just another example of a society that cannot seperate form from function.

      It's like saying, "I do not know how to make a decent school, so I will make a really impressive building, which will suffice as a school"

      It makes want to retch. My parents were teachers (retired) and they stay in touch with many teachers who came from their students (from my generation) who they had inspired to teach themselves.

      It is reprehensible for a school board (ANY school board) to spend so much damned money on a building when the REAL key to eduction (teachers, DUH!) are underpaid, undersupplied (way too many have to buy materials out of their own pockets) and set in front of huge classes (most of my daughter's classes have 40 students in them this year) only to be judged by standardized tests.

      What happened to inspiring students? What happened to drawing their experiences out of them so that they can relate to the lessons and apply them to their lifes? What happened to all the desire to reach a kid and help them realize how they fit into society instead of falling out? Sure it makes a great movie (when the teachers have proven it to work), but the school boards won't fund better teacher salaries!

      Oh yeah, a big expensive building is going to fix it.

      TOTAL BS!

      • by Mr 44 (180750) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:40PM (#33348396)

        Most people don't know that the LAUSD has been building schools at a completely insane pace. For the 15 years from 1997-2012, there has been an average of one new school opened every month! Sure, schools were neglected in the past, but there are tons of brand-new public schools in LA now.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by h4rr4r (612664)

        There are more teachers than teaching jobs, this clearly indicates they are not underpaid.

        • by cynyr (703126) on Monday August 23, 2010 @06:10PM (#33348702)

          or there aren't enough teaching jobs, tbh once the ratio's get down to 1:5 teachers to students, then we can start worrying about if the number of jobs is right. You forget this isn't a normal job market, or revenue system and you must not have kids.

        • by sjames (1099) on Monday August 23, 2010 @06:14PM (#33348738) Homepage

          Or that in spite of obvious need, too many teachers have been laid off to make budget for massive buildings.

          Or perhaps even that markets apply to employment much better in theory than in practice.

        • No (Score:4, Insightful)

          by bussdriver (620565) on Monday August 23, 2010 @06:18PM (#33348784)

          No there are more teachers than jobs because teachers are getting laid off all over the nation because their unions don't have the pull to counter all the PORK spending that is not cut and continues to be added to budgets by more influential forces.

          Plenty of jobs are underpaid yet they find workers who either want the job OR just NEED work. Some jobs are so low that Americans do not want them so then illegals take them; not because the job is so horrible but because the pay is too low for the work. Do we want teachers paid so bad that nobody wants to become a teacher BECAUSE the pay is so low.... then hire illegals to do the work? There are already good teachers who are doing other jobs because it takes a lifetime to make a good wage as a teacher.

        • by flaming error (1041742) on Monday August 23, 2010 @06:58PM (#33349138) Journal

          I believe that underlying your comment is an assumption that public school employment is decided by a vibrant functioning marketplace. That assumption would be incorrect.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Cappadonna (737133)
        Living in LA, this is not surprising, but rather pathetic. In Bell, CA for those not in the Golden State, has been in an uproar because city officials were pulling more money than the President or members of Senate. So, we lay off teachers -- but we build a giant planned city and call it a school. Some city contractor is getting major baller cake to build this monstrosity. No one makes any real bank increasing teachers' salaries or more books.
    • Re:Hey big spender! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Herkum01 (592704) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:32PM (#33348334)

      They needed a new school, and it had to deal with a number of special issues. For example,

      • global raw material shortages caused costs to skyrocket to an average of $600 per square foot in 2006 and 2007 -- triple the price from 2002
      • Methane mitigation cost $33 million
      • $15 million preserving historic features

      It is not like this an investment property that they could keep putting off. So the costs of the materials, who knew how high it was going to go? It is not like they could have predicted it was going to go way back down. Also this is Los Angeles,

      Construction costs at LA Unified are the second-highest in the nation -- something the district blames on skyrocketing material and land prices, rigorous seismic codes and unionized labor

      It is not like they could build it anywhere they want. At the very least, it was an investment in our youth which is better than the proposed "Bridge to Nowhere" (price tag of $398 million).

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Cereal Box (4286)

        Well, that's a good explanation and all, but there's the little problem that this isn't some basic, utilitarian school that cost a lot of money simply because of raw material costs. From the same article you quoted:

        At RFK, the features include fine art murals and a marble memorial depicting the complex's namesake, a manicured public park, a state-of-the-art swimming pool and preservation of pieces of the original hotel.

        Oh, and in reference to another LA school that cost "only" $377 million:

        Over 20 years, t

      • by hedwards (940851)
        But it's more than that, it's the swimming pool, murals and a marble statue of RFK. That's hardly indicitive of fiscal responsibility. The statue and the murals at least could've easily been added down the road when the economy and California's situation in general was less precarious. What's more, leaving those bits out at the last minute wouldn't have been that difficult to do.

        This isn't an investment in education, at least not purely, they could've had a much simpler building which was still perfectly
    • by icebike (68054)

      The other thing that caught my eye was the k-12 label.

      Does that really mean K-12 housed in the same facility, or it it some kind of project id.

      Drug swapping gang bangers in with the teddy bear crowd just seems so bone headed I can't imagine it in any city.

  • by TrippTDF (513419) <hilandNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:11PM (#33348042)
    For half a billion dollars, we could have had half a stealth bomber.
    • by Tackhead (54550)

      For half a billion dollars, we could have had half a stealth bomber.

      Yeah, but something tells me this isn't what the hippies had in mind [northernsun.com] when they said "It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale [blogspot.com] to buy a bomber"...

      It doesn't matter whether the procurement chain diverts the money to defense contractors or for texbook publishers: a bureaucracy's first order of business is to protect itself by expanding its mandate - and by extension, its

  • by overshoot (39700) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:11PM (#33348052)
    LA putting the same care and investment into these inner-city schools where there aren't any adequate schools that it does into wealthier neighborhoods.

    Or am I thinking of some other location?

  • I can't wait for my kids to be schooling like they were in Serenity. Nice green, luscious gardens with open sitting areas and touch screens with cool GUI effects.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      That was only for the rich. The average slobs went to a building just like we did - or no schooling at all.

      • by hedwards (940851)
        There's a reason for that. I'm not sure about other cities, but the Seattle public school district allows the community to donate facilities. Which is how the elementary school I went to came to have such a nice playground set up. The community got together and raised the funds, did a lot of the work themselves and suddenly there was a nice playground. Replacing the previous playground which wasn't quite as nice.

        Unfortunately due to a lack of time, money and organization that tends not to happen in poore
    • Open sitting areas could be a problem in some locations. Any children sitting outside in Austin today would likely burst into flames.

    • by bsDaemon (87307) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:45PM (#33348456)

      And the invasive brain surgery and mind control.... Wait, I guess we're just waiting for the invasive brain surgery parts

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by cynyr (703126)

      you mean by having it injected into their sub conscious while they are in a forced dream state, strapped down to a chair, and being programmed to killers, and being awoken from the dream by having a pen slammed into their head?

  • by neltana (795825) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:13PM (#33348080)
    I just have to ask...what is the state-of-the-art when it comes to swimming pools? I kind of thought we had that nailed down years ago. What, do they fill them with ferrofluids or some space age gel now?
    • by commodoresloat (172735) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:24PM (#33348210)

      Evian.

    • Alarms automagically go off when a poor kid pees in the pool. The rich kids buy 'pee in the pool' credits in advance and simply avoid the embarrassment.
    • by Surt (22457)

      Robotic lifeguards, hyper oxygenation to prevent drowning, etc.

    • Hmm. You know, I've never thought about swimming in magnetic fluids until now. I wonder what it would feel like as you move through the field lines.

    • by djlemma (1053860) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:59PM (#33348584)
      I know you're joking, but there is actually a lot of research in swimming pool design. About a decade ago when I was in college, we had a brand new state of the art pool. It featured some things like a vacuum suction system for the gutters (to reduce wake reflecting from the walls) and a very specific depth and grade of the bottom so that the wave reflections from the bottom of the pool would tend to help propel a swimmer along.

      This may seem like nothing, but swimming is a sport of hundredths of a second, so every little bit counts. There have been quite a few changes since I was swimming competitively- swimmers no longer wear tiny speedos, starting blocks are shaped differently so that the "track" starts are more effective.. there are lots of little things like this that help the latest generation of swimmers go a couple fractions of a second faster than the last.
      • by SpeZek (970136) on Monday August 23, 2010 @06:25PM (#33348848) Journal

        there are lots of little things like this that help the latest generation of swimmers go a couple fractions of a second faster than the last.

        To which end the sport becomes a measure of both skill and technology, and the swimmers of today cannot be compared to the swimmers of yesterday even remotely objectively.

      • by mangu (126918) on Monday August 23, 2010 @06:37PM (#33348960)

        This may seem like nothing, but swimming is a sport of hundredths of a second, so every little bit counts.

        So why don't attach propellers to the swimmers?

        You practice sports in schools for the sake of exercise, spending $500 million for a few hundredths of a second doesn't seem to be the objective of a public school.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by wiredlogic (135348)

        That's all well and good but at the end of the day this is a pool for high school students, not Olympic athletes. I wonder what the premium was for incorporating all the fancy design compared to a normal low tech pool.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rolfwind (528248)

        This may seem like nothing, but swimming is a sport of hundredths of a second, so every little bit counts.

        Only in the top echelon, not high school or even the average college level. Also, if everyone is under the same conditions when competing, what does it really matter? The state champion is the state champion and will recieve attention from scouts.

    • This being LA and this being a showcase school, they might be going for the Bay Watch-Big Brother look. The pool will have lifeguards who can't swim, but that come with their own silicon flotation devices. All the high school students will be at least 30 years old, and there will be cameras in the pool, cameras in the changing rooms, basically cameras everywhere.
    • by hedwards (940851)
      I know you're joking, but for one thing there are now swimming pools which are small enough to just about fit into an average apartment, by shooting jets of water in one direction they make you swim upstream constantly to stay where you are. I think those were originally designed for training Olympic athletes.
  • i would be happy to pay teachers and school administrators 6 figure incomes, provided they churned out highly educated students

    but i'm sorry, if a teacher sucks, they should be fired. and unfortunately, for standing against this common sense measure, the teacher's unions has made themselves an enemy of higher quality education

    the usa will fall in this world while other countries with a better grasp on how serious education is will rise. there really is nothing wrong with spending a lot of money on education. but HOW that money is spent, without any accountability, is going to destroy this country

    • by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedy.tpno-co@org> on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:30PM (#33348300) Homepage

      I used to think the same thing, but then I realized something.

      My daughter will not be getting the crap public education that other children get. She may attend public school, but I make sure that's supplemented with education at home. As a result, she is significantly ahead of her peers as far as the formal education is concerned, and she is already beginning to develop critical thinking skills ( that, frankly, most adults lack ).

      My point is this; parents that care will make sure their children are well educated. Those that don't will provide future grunt labor needs. Our country can't survive without this critical resource. We can't all be astronauts, as the saying goes. As long as we are able to provide the basics ( reading/writing/math ) for the majority of citizens, our country will do fine. Those that need or want more education will always be able to get it, and those of us who want more for our children will always provide it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Bryansix (761547)
        Freakonomics showed this statistically to be true as well. They looked at students who entered a lottery to go to a new charter school. The parents had to register the students for the lottery. They showed that ALL the kids who entered the lottery did better in school if they went to the charter school (they won the lottery) or not (they lost the lottery). The point was that if their parents cares enough to enter them in the lottery then they would do better then the majority of the rest of the school kids.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jvkjvk (102057)

        That's great and all.

        Let me know how that goes in 50 years time, when only the small percentage of children whose parents do this are running in fear from the mobs out for food. :You fail to understand just what will happen if we follow your plan.

        Regards.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by grasshoppa (657393)

          So...your plan is to, what? Make sure each and every child has a college education? And what would they do with that? Haul our garbage?

          For society to function we need a certain distribution of education. The largest portion being the highschool educated.

          But hell, it's the latest fashion to run around screaming the sky is falling. So don't let me get in your way.

    • by GiveBenADollar (1722738) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:32PM (#33348324)
      From my own experience, even if you catch a teacher flunking students intentionally you still can't get them fired. At least not if they have tenure. New teachers make next to nothing, teachers who have their tenure make substantially more. So you have teachers that can't get fired and are making lots of money while also dominating water-cooler politics, and at the same time you have new teachers trying to make a difference while making next to nothing and trying to keep out of trouble with water-cooler politics. Yeah, after what I saw in high-school, I decided I would never become a teacher unless I was independently wealthy enough to be able to quit at any time for any reason. And you wonder why it's the bad teachers that tend to stick around.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by msauve (701917)

        From my own experience, even if you catch a teacher flunking students intentionally you still can't get them fired. At least not if they have tenure.

        You're confused. The problem is not one of flunking good students, it's one of passing poor ones to the next teacher in line, so they don't have to work on educating them.

    • by Renraku (518261)

      How can you tell who sucks, though? You can put the best teacher into a bad environment and they'll do poorly. You put them into a school where they're underpaid, the school barely has supplies, the students don't care that they'll never make it through school, the parents actively encourage them to not do homework, etc. Traditionally these are all the problems of inner city schools. They can be fixed with programs, supplies, and better paid teachers.

      There are three people associated with a child in the

      • Well put.

        How can you tell who sucks, though?

        Simple. You RTFA and see who's complaining and why. Even better, study the issue like Renraku who mentioned gangs as an important problem.

        Here's the quote that got me, which nobody cared to address:

        "New buildings are nice, but when they're run by the same people who've given us a 50 percent dropout rate, they're a big waste of taxpayer money," said Ben Austin, executive director of Parent Revolution who sits on the California Board of Education. "Parents aren't fooled."

        How the fuck do you blame teachers for kids not showing up to school?

        But instead of details like this and building costs mentioned in other posts, all we get on Slashdot is the standard anti-government rants. But nope, the small-government freaks hadn't the courage to stand up for their usual demands

  • In one place? Must make beating younger students up for money real easy with the age spread. Even the most wimpy sophomore can always prey on the toddlers.
  • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:21PM (#33348164)
    I bet such a luxury compound has some swanky digs for the guys at the top. They don't say much about that understandably. But heck, nothing is too good for the administrators.
  • A monument... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DriedClexler (814907) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:24PM (#33348198)

    What is this? Some kind of parody of everything that's wrong with America? Is the developer supposed to come out from behind the curtain and say, "you idiots! This was a test! You weren't supposed to actually approve this thing!"?

  • by sydlexius (6356) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:24PM (#33348204)
    Schools such as RFK were built with funds from a bond measure passed by voters in the LA county area. The terms of this bond measure requires that funds be spent on construction, and forbade any other use. There was a very good piece on this issue that I've linked to: http://www.kcet.org/socal/socal_connected_online/video/blackboard-bungle.html [kcet.org]
  • Too fucking big (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GrumblyStuff (870046) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:25PM (#33348220)

    Bigger schools means teachers and students are seen less as humans and just another tally mark to the administration. I could see the benefit if they have some good technical classes so they would have good and up to date tools to work with but other than that, it's just not good.

  • by ElectricBuddha (1726624) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:28PM (#33348260)
    When I was going to high school in the late 90s and early 00s, I was one of the first classes to use the $80 million dollar "palace" of a high school that the local government built for the students. However, during my four years in high school, it became pretty apparent pretty quickly that just because it cost $80 million dollars to build doesn't necessarily mean it's worth $80 million dollars. As the result of no-compete bids and cronyism between the contractors and local government, by the end of my 4th year, the whole place was starting to fall apart and it was only about 6 years old at this point. I think one of the students literally managed to kick or hit the dedication stone into the wall.
  • by Mike Van Pelt (32582) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:28PM (#33348282)
    Dang. There's most of the district's budget shortfall, right there in this one half a billion $ + monument to waste and excess.
  • Every time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drumcat (1659893) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:38PM (#33348380)
    If anyone wonders why anyone votes "NO" on bond measures and referendums, this is why. We all want good educations for our youth, but disproportionate allocation and spending like this wreak of corruption and misappropriation. Other nations leap ahead because they are actually putting real teachers in place, paying them well and firing the bad ones, and supporting students all across their country. Our system is so locally based that there is no way to ever lift up those in a bad tax base. Instead, the rich get rich public schools, and the poor get either terrible facilities or overfunded behemoths with sub-par teachers. It's really time to eliminate local school districts, and fund states equally. That way, when a state legislature passes more ed money around, it goes to the right places.
    • Also (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday August 23, 2010 @09:18PM (#33350092)

      There's a reason for schools to look like thy do: It is a sturdy way to build things. When you have a building that is going to be frequented by a bunch of kids, who have no real investment or care in the well being of the building, it pays to build it to last. That means things like cinder-block walls (painted with heavy duty marine paint), tough, thin, carpet and so on. No it is not the peak of aesthetics but it does the job well. It takes abuse and hardly shows it. The high schools in my home town were like that and they aged very well. Sure it did have a "prison" look to it I guess but it held up to the students. You didn't have to repair holes in drywall all the time (hell I knocked a hole in my drywall and I try to be careful with that), you didn't have to repaint all the time, etc.

      So it isn't just a matter of not spending a shit ton on a building, that could better go to teacher salaries and so on, but it is also a matter of longevity and maintenance. You want to put a building in place that you can use 30, 50, even 100 years from now all while being abused by students and you don't want to have to spend an arm and a leg doing it. That means some aesthetic compromises, but you'll get over it.

      Hell I see that where I work (a university). My building is older, late 70s I think is when it was built. Main structure is brick, most floors are tough polyvinyl chloride, windows are a reasonable size and only in areas that matter and so on. It isn't the best looking building, but it holds up well. It can handle abuse (like having bigass servers moved around) well.

      Next door is a new "dramatic" architecture building. Massive glass wall, exposed steel structure, etc. Ok cool... Except for all the problems. Cooling costs are astronomical, vandals brake the windows that make up the glass wall, the structure is rusting and so on. Has some ridiculous maintenance costs, many of which are simply being neglected.

      Frankly, I'll take out "ugly" building. No it doesn't look as cool and the offices only have a normal window rather than a wall that is a window, but the damn thing holds up. It'll probably still be standing 30 years from now, not so sure about the building next door.

  • One thing that I picked up from the article were the additional requirements imposed upon this project by siting it on a historic location. I've seen this situation before. Some group has a need, but no source for funds to accomplish their task. So they latch on to some agency with money to spend. The school district has one item on their charter: running schools. When someone else approached them with a project or precious piece of property to save, they should have run, not walked away.

  • by hipp5 (1635263) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:50PM (#33348508)

    Critics note that nearly 3,000 teachers have been laid off over the past two years, the academic year and programs have been slashed, the district faces a $640 million shortfall and some schools persistently rank among the nation's lowest performing.

    Keep in mind that capital costs and operating costs are very different things when it comes to government accounting. Very often funds from higher levels of government are for capital costs only. Capital costs provide quick economic turnover which is something the government strives to do. If they hadn't built this school it doesn't mean the money would have gone to pay teachers. Not that I'm suggesting that the system is ok, just that you shouldn't necessarily criticize this particular project on these grounds.

  • Maintenance Cost (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BondGamer (724662) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:53PM (#33348528) Journal
    With a price tag like that, the upkeep is going to be astronomical. When they upgraded our local school to have air conditioning, they couldn't turn it on because it would cost ~$25,000 just to start! They are also talking about turning a perfectly good grass field into astroturf at a cost of 1 million dollars.
  • by myc (105406) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:57PM (#33348562)

    I don't know about other states, but in CA once money is earmarked for construction (many times it's so-called "one-time" money, or money that came from a one time windfall), one is prohibited from using it for any other purpose. For instance, at my daughter's school district, the new annex just completed this year at the district office has leather couches, mahoghany accent tables, and marble floors in their reception area. All the money for the construction of this annex was earmarked years ago, when the economy was still "strong". Despite the fact that the actual monetary needs of the district are elsewhere (teachers anyone?), they cannot use the money for anything else, even though it would have made much more sense to go with cheaper materials and use the surplus from construction to fund instruction.

  • by b4upoo (166390)

    Lay off 3,000 teachers and blow a half billion bucks on a school building. Jesus Christ! It isn't the kids that need an education it's the School Board and the county government that are completely ignorant and stark raving insane!

  • by ddillman (267710) <dgdillman&gmail,com> on Monday August 23, 2010 @06:33PM (#33348916) Journal
    That's a surefire way to get the public to vote no on every funding levy for the next 30 years. I've seen it happen with a $40M school.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the demigodic party. -- Dennis Ritchie

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