Currently our school district spends $56 million annually on four small schools with declining enrollment of around 2,900. That’s nearly twice the annual cost per student at OC’s highest-ranked Irvine schools, and over 25% above Newport-Mesa or Capistrano.
Spending more is justified if results are commensurate. Instead outcomes prove the best schools money can buy aren’t necessarily the best schools.
We all celebrate every local school success story. The inconvenient truth is positive district-wide outcomes disproportionately reflect grade K-8 performance.
High school outcomes reveal true efficacy of K-12 curriculum. Several OC high schools spending half per student outperform LBHS in critical areas.
U.S. News & World Report ranks LBHS 640th nationally and 114th among high schools in our state, which is ranked 47th among states nationwide. USN&WR scores LBHS 51.9 on college readiness, consistent with 53% LBHS student proficiency on state “common core” math assessments.
Widely-followed Niche education surveys blend scholarship and non-academics, ranking LBUSD a solid 25th in state, third in OC, buoyed by K-8 achievement not sustained at LBHS. Even with expected overall A+ rating, LBHS drops down to 95th on Niche high school rankings statewide.
LBUSD’s internal assessments are self-promotional, relying on state school award banners to mask a distressed status quo. Example, compliance with state law mandating equal access to school technology was politically orchestrated to misleadingly imply lavish procurement means digitally-based learning has been measurably enhanced.
Our school board long ago abdicated local policy control to under-performing, over-paid senior staff and consultants. A widening gap between the shrinking pool of high achieving student clusters and school wide student performance reveals systemic school governance deficiencies.
Meanwhile, a school board leadership vacuum allows deep-pocket School Power donors to buy disproportionate influence and privilege in public schools. School Power donations are chump change compared to the $56 million taxpayers contribute annually.
Until measurable LBHS results match the hype, next time a School Power pledge drive claims LBHS is “like a private high school” parents should call the fraud prevention hot line!
We have generously supported School Power, but wealth-driven, influence–seeking, mission creep institutionalized a de facto political monopoly restraining pluralism from PTA to the school board. Public schools are a civic legacy, not for sale.
In ways money can’t buy, a more diverse broadly-experienced school board could truly enrich education for students and families, especially those who stay through high school.
Howard Hills, Laguna Beach