Measure would double Irvine’s support for schools
By SAMANTHA SCHAEFER
March 12, 2012 | OC Register
An initiative to more than double city support for Irvine schools from 2013 to 2016 was proposed for the November ballot early this month.
If passed by voters, Support Our Schools would continue and increase city support for the Irvine and Tustin Unified School Districts as outlined in the Irvine Educational Partnership fund and the Challenge Match Grant program through 2016.
The measure would allocate $500,000 in addition to the $1 million the city already pledges for the Challenge Match Grant program and maintain that $1.5 million allocation annually. Support for the Educational Partnership Fund would increase to $2.5 million annually, up from the current allocation of $500,000.
It has been difficult to maintain and improve upon the quality of Irvine schools with declining state support and the effect of the recession, said Councilman and Support Our Schools chairman Larry Agran, who proposed the initiative. The initiative will build on past efforts and addresses specific district needs with ideas from a variety of stakeholders, he said.
“One of the very strong reasons for [Irvine's] successes has been our support for public education.” said Agran. “Even as the state and federal government are doing less, we’re doing more.”
Funds for the initiative would come from the city’s general fund, and no new taxes would be created, Agran said. Irvine has come through the recession in good shape, he said, adding that he believes the city will have surplus at the end of the fiscal year.
“It looks now as though the trajectory is right and the ability to do more for our schools exists, especially when financing for schools at the state level is so uncertain,” he said.
Portions of the new Educational Partnership Fund would be divvied up for specific projects, for example, more instructional assistants to improve the teacher to student ratio or school supplies so teachers can avoid paying out of pocket and to support students who can’t afford them, Agran said.
Also, $100,000 of the new funds would go toward planning and developing joint-use sports facilities at the Orange County Great Park and “instant stadiums” at any Irvine school. Park officials are working with the Irvine Unified School District to potentially relocate the high school slated to be built near the Great Park Neighborhoods to a parcel near Trabuco Road and the sports park.
Because of state cuts, IUSD has reduced its spending by $38 million in the past two years, according to the district website. After cost-saving measures were put into place by the district and one-time reserves were added, IUSD is projecting a $5.3 million shortfall for its next fiscal year.
School districts will be hit with a $4.8 billion “trigger cut” next year if Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed tax initiative is not approved by voters on the November ballot. That accounts for an $11.5 million loss for IUSD, including proposed cuts to home-to-school and special education transportation, according to John Fogarty, assistant superintendent of business services for the district.
In the 2010 election year, voters approved Measure R, an initiative similar to Support Our Schools that outlines funding levels for the two school support programs through 2013. The measure passed with 78.2 percent of the vote.
Irvine and Tustin unified school districts are allocated program funds based on Irvine student enrollment according to the California Basic Education Data System. Currently, they receive 87 percent and 13 percent, respectively.
The Irvine Educational Partnership Fund was established by the City Council in Jan. 2006 in response to declining state funding. In 2010 voters extended the measure, pledging $500,000 for three years through 2013-2014.
The city has distributed $3,482,325 through the program toward initiatives such as health and guidance services. At its Feb. 28 meeting, the council approved $502,600 for nurses and health clerks in TUSD and IUSD, and for Irvine’s Project Success, which provides counseling and emotional support services for at-risk students.
As part of the Challenge Match Grant program, the city matches fund-raising efforts by the two school districts dollar-for-dollar up to the amount available for allocation – currently a total of $1 million dollars. The Irvine Public Schools Foundations and Parent Teacher Organizations in the Tustin Unified School District are charged with raising money.
Challenge match grant money can be used to lower class sizes and enhance learning by adding more teachers, aides and instructional assistants, increasing one-on-one assistance for at-risk students, and adding special projects and enrichment programs. These funds cannot be used for administrative costs.
Signatures will be gathered for the initiative beginning on March 15, and Agran said he hopes to meet the threshold of 11,600 signatures by May 15.
Read the article at its source here: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/irvine-343956-support-school.html