Can't we have it all ?
There is an ongoing and worthy debate in the LAUSD about the plan to spend one billion dollars to buy an iPad for every one of the students in the nation's second largest school district.
Should we do that when they will only last a few years, will break, or be stolen, or misused? Good questions. Shouldn't that money be used for building more new schools or rebuilding old ones? Can't we shift some of that money into the maintenance funds that have been cut in half over the past few years?
While all that plays out, and while the School Board moves ahead with its plan to spend the next chunk of tens of millions of dollars on iPads, I wanted to see what else the LAUSD spends our tax dollars on. I'm told that when you break down the numbers, the iPad purchase is only about 5% of all the bond money voters have approved for new construction and technology and infrastructure improvements going all the way back to 1998.
So, I asked the district's public relations folks to show me some examples of what tax payers are getting for their money. We spent much of the day at the most impressive new auditorium at Garfield High School in East L.A. Their historic auditorium was destroyed by a fire 7 years ago and now, all that time and 73 million dollars later, there is a world-class facility that will open next month --1400 seats, new technology, beautifully designed, a facility that the school's enthusiastic principal Jose Huerta promises will revitalize the whole community, not just his 2500 students.
You can go on the district's website and navigate your way through tons of information about what the district spends its money on. The Garfield project is one of 23,000 renovations and, on top of that, there have been 130 new schools built from the ground up. Impressive numbers. That doesn't mean we give them a pass on spending a billion on the iPad. And it doesn't mean that Superintendent John Deasy didn't manipulate the definition of spending on ''technology'' to include buying iPads rather than building up say wifi networks or wiring or satellite services or other technological improvements. But it does show other examples of money that seems to have been very well spent.