A brand new beautiful, state of the art, high school cost the state of California $105 million to build for an ever growing student population. Today, that much needed facility sits in Riverside with a fence around the perimeter. The building is empty but the problem is not a lack of students- they are eager to get in. Money, or the lack of it, is at the forefront of an educational debate, again.
A nearby high school houses nearly 3,400 students; 100 percent more people than the building was designed to accommodate. The class sizes are nearing the 40s and all parties involved realize this is not ideal. Teachers, students and district officials were all excited for their new high school but budget cuts will leave it empty for at least one year.
The seats would be easy to fill with students but the hiring of additional teachers, administrators and building maintenance costs would run the district an estimated $3 million in the first year; an amount of money that simply isn’t available right now. State Education Superintendent, Tom Torlakson, has expressed disappointment in the decision. “Schools are having to make many decisions which are both unpopular and seemingly illogical. They’ve really been pushed into a corner,” he told USAToday.
The Alvord School District Board struggled with the decision to suspend opening the new school. The money needed to open the school would have inevitability had to come from somewhere else in the education budget; causing more layoffs in other schools. Forced to choose between the new school and more teachers being laid off, the board picked to pause the project.
In the last three years, California has seen $18 billion stripped from the budget for K-12 education. 30,000 teacher layoffs later, and the problem keeps growing. The per student budget is down nearly $1,000 from 2008; directly affecting the experience of every student in the public school system. Plans to reverse the budget crisis include continuing numerous taxes due to expire this year and possibly implementing new levies.