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Segment | Culture

Blackboard Bungle?

Despite substantial budget problems, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is in the midst of what may be the largest public works project in U.S. history: a $20.1 billion expansion project to build new schools across the city. Should the District be spending all that money during this recession, especially when it’s threatening to lay off thousands of teachers? And will there even be enough students to fill all the new classrooms? Thousands of people throughout the L.A. area have even lost their homes to make way for new schools they think might not be needed—people like the Villanueva family who show us the site of their former home. Correspondent Vince Gonzales talks to LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines and other School District employees to find out more about the New School Construction Program.

LAUSD’s New Construction Program
Los Angeles Unified School District
Unified Teachers Los Angeles

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I just watched Blackboard Bungle and I have to say that this is outrageous!!!! I am one of the clerical people who was recently laid off from the Beaudry Building but know for a fact that many consultants are still working there as well as Administrators. Ramon C. Cortines continues to comment about bumping rights and Union Contracts that have to be upheld but it is not true. I was on illness leave due to job related stress and received a letter in the mail stating that I am on the re-employment list for 39 months!!! I went on many interviews at school sites where I really wanted to work while on leave and not one job offer due to a former supervisor who is a higher paid employee who gave bad references. I am like many other people in Los Angeles who is now displaced and unable to find a job. But by all means keep paying Guy Mehula and all of his cronies those high salaries to continue to build schools that will remain empty due to people moving away. I hope the City of Los Angeles will eventually get involved in this matter.

Thank you KCET for your informative programs.

Ms Martin:

Your excuse of job related stress induced sick leave is should I say pretty lame! It is very transparent that you were unhappy at your job and uncontent of your fellow staff. You insist of job stress, but the way I read of you posting you took the leave so you can find another location while getting sick pay leave....

Taking construction money away from new schools is short-sighted because these new schools will be necessary in the future, and now is when the jobs are needed for the construction workers. Project costs are lower at this time, allowing the District to get more for its money.

How wasteful and thoughtless!!

Don't forget, in East LA, schools are still very overcrowded. Where I teach, at Garfield High School, we currently have 4683 students. The high school next to us, Roosevelt, also has over 4600 students. Both schools are 3 track, which means that students take turns using the school - they're never all there at the same time. If you are a teacher, you have to pack up everything when you go off-track, and there's always some other teacher's filing cabinets and closets taking up space in whichever room you are in. It's like being in borrowed space all the time. And I think the message the students get from this is that they are not considered important enough to get their own classroom.

So, if overbuilding is bad, let's not forget what a nightmare having too few schools was. The program hardly addresses this point.

Wow! I was stunned at the raw honesty of your expose on the overbuilding of classrooms in LA. You apparently missed the memo on the intense pressure the Teacher's Union is about to bring on you to lay off stories like this! With more broadcasting like yours tonight, perhaps we may finally shift towards saving local education from the freefall it's suffering from today.

I am all about the facts..

Fact on LAUSD Student Enrollent History:

More current LAUSD student enrollment 2008-2009 season:

LAUSD Year Student Enrollment
1993-1994 639,129
1994-1995 632,973
1995-1996 647,612
1996-1997 667,305
1997-1998 680,430
1998-1999 695,885
1999-2000 710,007
2000-2001 721,346
2001-2002 735,058
2002-2003 746,852
2003-2004 747,009
2004-2005 741,367
2005-2006 727,319
2006-2007 707,626
2007-2008 694,288
2008-2009 688,138

LAUSD enrollment is on the decline when their documention says there should be on an rise. Student population peaked in 2003 -2004... its been decrease ever since... and will continue. But somehow LAUSD assures the public that in 2012 when they finish all the brand new schools they have planned that somehow the student population will boom as they continue to close down classrooms especially at the elementary school level currently....

Finally here is LAUSD own documention from 2005 that shows their enrollment will continue to drop and why it has:

the Newest LAUSD wastiful spending is called: SRHS#15... get the facts:

So can anybody logically tell me Why is LAUSD building more buildings and layoff 8,000+ teachers & staff and cutting school programs?????

Well boys and girls, What seems like A HUGE WAST AT THE PRESENCE(I thought the same also and was outraged at first, but thought through afterward). Please don't forget that once these new schools are build all the older surplus schools can be sold and redeveloped at a profit when the economy recovers soon and land price(never devalues all these land are in prime developed locations) after projected completion of the schools and of the economy. Please don't act like children and want instant justifications or gratifications! We are in this state in general because we cannot look past what is immediately in front of our eyes...THE WHOLE PICTURE!!!

There is probably SOME need for construction but the size and scope of the current program is unnecessary. Build schools only where there is a need such as where John teaches. Other schools can be redesigned to remove 'temporary' bungalows and build permenant classrooms. This would solve servral issues. #1 add classrooms, #2 keeps all students on the same campus, #3 eliminate the need for additional maintenance, cafiteria and clerical staff #4 eliminate need for busing. A large majority of students are moving out of California or going to privete schools. I think Guy Mahula and his cronies are paid too much and most likely getting kick-backs from contractors.

it's hard to plan for the future but in this economic climate with people losing their homes they will be forced to move away and consider not having children so enrollment will surely drop.. these empty buildings will then be turned into reeducation facilities sponsored by the fascist government.
how sad.

I just finished watching your piece on the LAUSD construction program by Vince Gonzales produced by Vicki Curry. I'm frankly suprised by the extreme slant of the report, and the misinformation implied by the story. Superintendent Cortines stated the basic fact undermining the overall suggestion of your story, but it bears repeating. That is that school bond funding, passed by the majority of LA voters can only be used for school construction. Until the most recent bond issue, which also passed with a majority of votes, the school bond money can not even be used for maintenance once the school is constructed.

Your story strongly implied that if the school was not utilizing these funds for school construction, it could be used for teachers salaries, programing for the Arts magnet high school downtown, etc. That would be an illegal use of those funds and is impossible.

If parents are outraged that teachers are being laid off, their energy should be directed toward the overall budget most recently passed, but more importantly, at the unsustainable tax structure that has impoverished the State of California since Prop 13 was passed. There has been nothing to replace the lost revenue since that unreasonable proposition, that resulted in a great inequity and unfair tax burden for new homeowners, while starving the state of much-needed revenue as the population grows.

SoCal Connected should take on THAT story and wake up Californians that want the highest level of service and not have to pay for it.

What is even more outrageous, is that LAUSD is building schools in middle of industrial corridors that emit high toxic air contaminants and have underground environmental contamination that is a health risk to children students.

South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) per Rule 1401.1 uses a cancer risk threshold of 1 part per million for toxic air emission sources locating in close proximity to a school. SCAQMD studies determined that children need this added health protection against cancer because they were more susceptible.

In order to get more school project sites approved, LAUSD ignores SCAQMD air quality regulatory guidelines. LAUSD uses 10 parts per million cancer risk threshold for surrounding industrial businesses. If they are less than 10 parts per million, LAUSD goes forward with construction,knowing full well that SCAQMD determined that more than 1 part per million was a cancer health risk to children.

LAUSD has 42 schools under construction that used a cancer health risk threshold for surrounding properties with up to 1000% higher than what SCAQMD requires. Unfortunately, SCAQMD does not not have regulatory authority over LAUSD. It appears no one has.

I notified the Mayor of this, the Los Angeles City Council, every member of our state legislature, our Governor, and Senator Diane Feinstein. No one bothered to respond.

LAUSD also hires environmental consultants who give them the desired results. Ed Scott, who was on District Cooley's Task Force investigating the Belmont High School project several years ago, said that LAUSD removed consultants who questioned operations and replaced them with those who would give them the results they wanted.

LAUSD also built several schools within 500 feet from freeways in violation of a 2003 California Law prohibiting construction of a school within 500 feet.
LAUSD's environmental consultants said that they mitigated the hazard by building filter walls between the freeways and the schools. However,the winds now blow over the walls onto the schools,causing serious health risks to children who are forced to inhale these fine particulates.

The news media reported these and similar hazards caused by LAUSD constructing schools where it shouldn't be locating schools, but LAUSD proceeds unabated, building more schools that are a health risk to children.

It is one thing to waste our tax payer's money building schools we don't need, but in the process LAUSD is also constructing schools in areas that LAUSD and its consultants know are serious health hazards.

This attitude is Incomprehensible.

Very Truly Yours,

John Boyd

Very Truly Yours,

John Boyd

Your piece on Blackboard Bungle only touches the tip of the ice berg regarding LAUSD’s, corrupt and utterly intentional disregard for individuals and small companies that stand in their path to build new schools. I have been a witness to LAUSD’s Eminent Domain tactics for the past five years. LAUSD’s Board Members, Employees and “Independent Consultants” have lied, concealed information, presented false and misleading reports. They have breached contracts, violated the relocations assistance act, committed fraud, misrepresented themselves, violated individuals and companies civil rights, conspired to violate civil rights, engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity as defined in the “Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act” sometimes known as “RICO”, intentionally interfered with contractual relationships, inflicted emotional distress and have trespassed on properties to name a few. This manner and practice has been going on unabated for years. You can look at the Belmont School project as a prime example of their corrupt and unethical behavior. It continues today and will continue until the people and business affected stand up to them and their multi-billion dollar organization with highly paid “hired guns” for their consultants.

If people don't like the building of new schools, they need to stop having babies.
Furthermore, if people have a problem with what their chilodren are NOT learning in school, the best thing that they can do is teach their children how to behave in a classroom.

This piece was biased, superficial and sensational. The piece seemed designed to enrage your uneducated viewers. And you certainly succeeded. It may feel good to make your opposition look like stupid goons. But in the real world, people are thoughtful, intelligent and dedicated. This wasn't objective or serious journalism. Rather appalling and embarrassing for Orange County.

I just saw the story, "Blackboard Bungle?", and it reminded me that LAUSD is laying off teachers. Building schools and laying off teachers sounds like a contradiction. How is it possible that new schools are being built, yet teachers are being layed- off? The new schools being built are providing jobs to many, so I think it is a good thing, but if the student population is decreasing, and teachers are losing their jobs, I fail to see the justification in building new schools.

I just viewed "Blackboard Bungle". For too long the LAUSD has run a slick, well funded propaganda campaign to convince voters to approve bond measure after bond measure by using scare stories and reality distortions. Not only are they building one school a month, with thousands of empty seats, but they are creating a monster that will cost billions more to maintain in the future. They are creating a giant industry with a financial burn rate that is unsustainable. We do not need the largest public works program in history, so please send them a clear message and do not vote for any more LAUSD bond measures!

The only problem with this piece is that is hardly news, of course LAUSD is over building - construction is a profitable business. Yes, some new schools were needed, but the truth is that LAUSD will not see their peak enrollments in the decades to come. Having said that, you can hardly blame the Superintendent or the current board, they were giving a construction GIFT CARD by the voters and would be fools not to use it. I completely blame the voters for such waste, but I do believe the parcel tax would have it tough. More money to LAUSD results in more waste. Ask yourselves, what happened with the declining enrollment, smaller class sizes? NO, +5000 teaching coaching positions were created, non-classroom teaching positions protected by the teachers union.

I second what Eileen Roe, John, Stephanie Reich, and Christine Speed said. The current construction projects were approved by us, the voters, in large numbers.

Unfortunately, many of the complaints here are short sighted or completely erroneous.

Fortunately, the projects will continue on regardless of people's opinions or feelings.

In 5 years LAUSD will tell everybody "I told you so." The school I went to is going to be one of the last high schools that is year around. My graduating class was over 900. My school has about 4,000 students enrolled. We need those schools to reduce over crowding. Teachers shouldn't have a class room full of 48 students. It should be 20:1 not 40+:1.

Let's follow the money, then you can define the true intent. The building of schools in it of itself is a good thing. The intent to properly educate our children is a good thing. Providing more jobs through these types of public building programs is plausibly a good thing.

However, when you really evaluate how much of the LAUSD school building program monies have actually gone to construction itself and how much has gone to, and continues to go to, the Program Management and Project Management consulting firms, one can clearly see the disproportionate amounts that go to "so-call" professional consulting firms. Today, 60% of the monies go to soft cost expenditures and 40% actually go to hard cost (construction) expenditures. Let us put this into perspective. In typical projects, either public or private, the majority if the project monies go to the construction of the project itself, not the other way around.

Anyone researching and interested in facts and truth; try looking into Parsons-Brinkerhoff, Port Hueneme Naval Base, Guy Mehula, John Doyle, Robert Temple, Mark Hovater, Bruce Kendall, ... the list goes on.


Because LAUSD had a 20 year history of spending construction money on educational needs (including teachers salaries) before they built new schools, the back log of needed schools was immense. Because of this, the bond language specifically stated the money could only be used for new schools (not teachers, or educational expenses) - sorry, that is what we voted on during a synthetic economic boom.

Also, creating the world's largest school construction program does not happen in two years, it happens in ten, and that is why we should embrace the momentum and keep building even while demographics change and enrollment declines. The cost per square foot to construct has dropped by 40% so finish what we started. Eventually we will need all the classrooms, even if we stopped the new construction program not one teacher would be hired with the money, keep going it is the right thing to do.

Thanks, Mike


thank you karen. :O)) i appreciate your support of KCET and of my writing.


thank you karen. :O)) i appreciate your support of KCET and of my writing.

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