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California or Bust

Facing a $25 Billion budget shortfall, California’s double-digit unemployment and housing price declines aren’t exactly the stuff of the “land of dreams” reputation…

Los Angeles (Reuters) – Erich Kwek’s new office is awash in sunlight and impeccably ordered, with enough space for a desk, small sitting area and a conference table. If you didn’t know better, you might mistake it for a corner office at a successful corporation. But the long whiteboard on the opposite wall is a reminder that this room was never meant to be an office at all.

A year ago, Kwek’s office was a classroom filled with first graders. Today, the superintendent of South Whittier School District looks out of his windows into an empty schoolyard.

At the end of the last school year, California state budget cuts forced Telechron Elementary School to go on summer vacation for the last time. Soon after, the district moved its administrative offices into the low, white brick building until it can decide what to do with the property.

Kwek’s system is in a downward spiral: as state austerity forces cut after cut and jobs remain elusive, students and their families are leaving — to areas that hardly seem to be competitors for the California good life. This year, the district lost 175 kids — double the number it had planned for.

“People who were here for jobs moved out, whether it be back to Mexico or out of state, or whatever,” Kwek said.


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