Los Angeles Public School Named After Robert Kennedy Costs $578 Million

Most expensive public school in nation's history set to open next month.

ByABC News
August 23, 2010, 2:28 PM

Aug. 23, 2010— -- The most expensive public high school in the nation's history will open its doors to students next month in Los Angeles, but critics say the $578 million school is already teaching a lesson on wasteful spending.

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The Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools will house 4,200 students from kindergarten through 12th grade. The complex is built on the site of the Ambassador Hotel, where Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan on June 5, 1968.

The new campus between Wilshire Boulevard and 8th Street in Los Angeles preserve pieces of the historic hotel, but it's the stunning new architecture that's drawing eyes and plenty of wagging fingers.

The soaring, unusually shaped buildings are clad in glass and metal, and the interiors are just as slick. The facility boasts a state-of-the-art swimming pool, fine art murals, an ornate auditorium suitable for hosting the Oscars, and a faculty dining room that the superintendent says is "better than most restaurants."

All those amenities add up to an enormous price tag, which works out to about $250,000 per pupil. That $578 million cost is more expensive than the Bird's Nest stadium built for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, which cost $500 million. It's also significantly more expensive than the $400 million home of the Denver Broncos, Invesco Field at Mile High.

Critics say the school is a luxury that the Los Angeles Unified School District cannot afford. The district has a $640 million budget shortfall, and over the past two years, 3,000 teachers have been laid off. The district has even proposed shortening the school year by six days to save money.

The money troubles come on top of the district's serious academic shortfalls. With a dropout rate upwards of 35 percent, LA Unified is one of the lowest-performing school districts in America.