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US public schools are going broke, yet some spend like a kid in a candy store

The $578 million price tag for the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex in Los Angeles is hard to justify at a time when many schools are turning to desperate measures to save teachers' jobs. Voters must respond by pushing profligate public schools to be as frugal as charter schools.

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Faced with the need to make drastic cuts to avoid looming budget holes as federal stimulus money runs out, school districts across the country are resorting to once-unthinkable solutions. Officials are turning to desperate measures to save the jobs of teachers, whose livelihoods were long considered secure.

In Boston, the superintendent has chosen to close nine schools and merge eight others into four buildings in light of a potential $63 million shortfall next year. School officials in Camp Hill, Pa., are so eager to raise funds that they've offered to sell naming rights to their gyms ($250,000 each), the library ($150,000), and even the counseling office ($15,000).

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New studies indicate that thousands of other school districts will be forced to follow suit unless there is another federal infusion of cash. This is troubling because it sends a clear message to children that everything is for sale.

Didn't save for a rainy day

Yet states have to assume their share of responsibility for the way they've used the $100 billion in federal stimulus funds they received soon after President Obama took office. Most of the money – $40 billion – was directed at shoring up the balance sheets of state education systems. The rest supported Title I funding for poor students, programs for disabled students, and smaller programs like the Obama administration's Race to the Top contest.

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