Los Angeles mayor visits nation’s most expensive public school

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News:


image Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa took a tour of the six shiny, state-of-the-art schools at the Robert F Kennedy complex. He wasn’t visiting for any special performance or opening. Instead, he visited to remind the public of education accomplishments during his term. The visit came after his “State of the City&#34” address last night, when Villaraigosa emphasized his commitment to school reform.

Los Angeles Unified School District Board President Monica Garcia guided Villaraigosa around:

“Mr. Mayor what is great about that auditorium — you can lift the back and it seats out to where we walked down…”

That’s just one of the incredible features of this new public school, just finished last year. It’s known to some as the “Taj Mahal” of public schools. It cost $580 million to build, making it the most expensive public school in the nation. Chuck Flores is the principal of New Open World Academy, one of the six pilot schools at RFK. His school focuses on technology and social justice.

“I mean, you know the cost of the campus that’s been in the news forever, but I think it’s really providing an opportunity for kids who’ve been disenfranchised for so long.”

Flores is referring in part to the fact that for years the district bused students out of the area to other schools. Now, if you live in a nine block radius, you can attend school here. Flores says the school’s amenities, like its beautiful library, create a better learning environment for students.

Oscar Jaramillo used to attend LA High School. Now, he’s part of the Ambassador School of Global Leadership at RFK.

“I have more opportunities and dreams to accomplish right here at ASGL,” Jaramillo said. “I know I love being an ambassador. I’m very proud of that so that we can all, like, become like global citizens around the world.”

The mayor also referenced our globalized world.

“There is no more important issue for a city if we want to be competitive in a world economy than to be educating a future generation,” Villaraigosa said.

But with six schools costing half a billion dollars, and a $350 million dollar deficit remaining, the city may not be able to build new schools like RFK anytime soon.