Billionaire David Geffen is giving UCLA more money - $100 million more - to build a private school in Westwood that will serve children of UCLA faculty and staff as well as children from the wider Los Angeles area.
The reported goal is an economically and ethnically diverse student body reflecting the city. The Los Angeles Times covered the story this morning. According to Geffen, UCLA has "not been able to attract certain talent because of the costs of educating their children."
The Geffen Academy is expected to begin serving about 125 students, from sixth to ninth grades, in the 2017-18 school year, with plans to increase to about 600 students through 12th grade. No word yet on what tuition will be but, according to the Times, a $25-million endowment will provide financial aid to about 40% of the student body and help support the school's operations, officials said.
LAUSD Board Member Steve Zimmer had this to say to the LA Times:
"My first thought is that I would rather have this be [an] LAUSD public school, but I don't have any doubts about UCLA's School of Education's commitment to improving public schools in the most impoverished and vulnerable communities," Zimmer said. He cited UCLA faculty's work at the UCLA Community School, a public K-12 school that is part of the Robert F. Kennedy complex in the Wilshire district.
Zimmer said he hoped that Geffen would focus on helping public education when he donates money in the future: "My door is wide open in terms of what I feel are some amazing philanthropic opportunities in LAUSD."
I can't help but wonder what underfunded - and underappreciated - UCLA neighborhood schools like Emerson Community Charter and University High School (yes, UCLA is the university to which the name refers) could do with just a fraction of Geffen's gift.
What do you think? Should public universities be building private schools?