Los Angeles plans to implement a district-wide ethnic studies curriculum, but it has run into a massive $70 million roadblock.
Last fall, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) took the almost-unprecedented step of requiring every student in the district to pass a course in “ethnic studies” in order to graduate high school. When the school board approved the measure, however, it did so without any clear price tag. An initial estimate suggested the price of implementing the decree would be only $3.4 million.
It turns out that estimate was off by a factor of 20. A recently completed analysis by the district’s Ethnic Studies Committee concluded that the price to implement the new program will be a staggering $72.7 million over four years, with most of the cost coming from the need to buy thousands of new textbooks and train instructors in the new curriculum. That’s about $105 per student in the district.
That’s a hefty chunk of change for a district whose annual budget is about $6.8 billion. LAUSD is already struggling with its finances; its deficit for the 2015-16 school year is expected to be over $150 million.
The huge price tag vindicates those who criticized the district for rushing into adopting the ethnic studies requirement without much study beforehand. Board member Tamar Galatzan, the only person to vote against the proposal, warned in an editorial last November the district was acting without any real research on how the requirement would impact hiring decisions and the financial bottom line.
Activists insisted that ethnic studies was an urgent need for LAUSD and pushed for a quick adoption of the requirement. Board member Steve Zimmer argued that ethnic studies were a pressing need to keep kids in school and on the path towards success.
“In some places, there is resistance , but what we do here today will bring down the walls of resistance,” Zimmer said at the time. “We are losing kids because we are not connecting to their story.”
This report, by Blake Neff, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.