The largest public school system in the state of California is the Los Angeles Unified School District. The District is the second largest in the country, after the New York City system. In 2005, the District took care of over 710,000 students, and employed more than 74,000. Behind the LA country government, the District is the largest employer.
The whole city of Los Angeles and parts of several nearby localities are served by the District. It even runs its own police department. Amazingly, if the school system was a Fortune 500 company, it would fall in at around 250. It runs almost as many buses as the LA Transportation Authority. Over 500,000 meals per day are proffered in school cafeterias.
The system is known for overcrowded schools, poor maintenance and incompetent administration. The graduation rates are not very high either, leading to hordes virtually unemployable young people going out on the local job market. Additionally, the District has long been derisively known for its top-heavy bureaucracy. Many attempts to reform the system have been implemented, but none too successfully.
The divisive school dropout issue has been at the heart of District reform talks for quite some time. A recent study performed by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University calculated that only approximately 45 percent of Los Angeles students were graduating in four years.
Lastly, a Washington, D.C. based public policy think tank posited that one year’s class of high school dropouts in time costs the state of California over 38 billion dollars in lost wages, taxes and productivity over the former student’s lifetimes.