Pro-Education Irvine Voters Should Attend May 11 City Council Meeting

With all the drama unfolding at CUSD and the strike, we’ve been remiss in talking about something positive happening with the Irvine City Council in regards to a massive shortfall facing IUSD schools this year. Mayor Sukhee Kang pushed for a new challenge grant where the city of Irvine will match, dollar-for-dollar funds raised by Irvine parents, to the tune of $1 million for schools in Irvine and Tustin Unified that serve Irvine’s kids. 

The Mayor, who was recently named the Irvine Chamber of Commerce’s Business Leadership Award for Elected Official of the Year marking the first time the Chamber selected a sitting city council member, has a strong record in supporting education issues.  And even though the vote from the council was 5-0, Christina Shea, Kang’s probable opponent in the November election, is politicizing the grant to our kids.

From the Voice of OC:  ”

In 2008, the Irvine Public Schools Foundation promised to raise $900,000 to match the city’s donation. In May 2008, the foundation indicated it had $500,000 in reserves and would raise an additional 400,000 to match the city. With those assurances, the city approved the grant.

But then in July 2008, Jerry Mandel, who at the time was the CEO of the foundation, notified the city that the foundation had only raised an additional $204,000.

The city agreed to forward matching funds totaling $704,000, and Mandel signed an affidavit saying that the city’s matching funds “will be donated by the Irvine Public Schools Foundation to the Irvine Unified School District.”

However, an email to Shea from Irvine City Manager Sean Joyce states that the district didn’t get the money until December 2008. The email also says the foundation accrued interest while the money sat in the foundation’s bank account. Shea estimated the amount earned in interest was probably around $15,000. That money did not go to the district.

That money, Shea said, should not have stayed in the foundation’s bank account. “The foundation was supposed to be a pass-through organization,” She said.

Form an earlier post in Voice of OC, it seems Shea is more upset that she didn’t have the time to spin this idea for her own advantage:

Councilwoman Christina Shea said a similar grant in 2008 was full of improprieties. The city donated $1 million thinking it would go as soon as possible to the districts affected, instead the foundation held onto the money for nearly another year until it could raise the matching funds.

And, Shea said, the interest accrued from that money was never accounted for.

CEO of the foundation Neda Zaengle says Shea is wrong and that the city held onto the money until the foundation could raise another million to match the city’s donation. This time around, the foundation has raised $500,000 and, after that effort, would have a tough time raising $1 million to match the city. Joyce is now tasked to come up with a plan that would circumvent that requirement.

Shea questioned the additional support when the city already gives $4.5 million to the school districts each year. And, she said, Kang failed to give the council a number to be considered until 40 minutes before the meeting started.

“I’m pretty much thrown off by this,” Shea said. “I asked (for a figure) as recently as last Friday.”

And Shea’s supporters are taking to the Internet to do her whining, er bidding:

Former Council candidate Pat Rodgers weighed in with this comment: ”

Come on folks, it is an election year, what did you expect from a bunch of two faced, mealy-mouth politicians, who would sell their souls to the Devil for a hand full of votes. Of course, Larry Agran, Sukhee Kang and Beth Krom, have no souls to sell, because they were mortgaged years ago.

With the identity crisis as to where their responsibilities and priorities are, both Agran and Kang should simply run for the School Board in November. Then they could work full time screwing up the School District like they have done with the City of Irvine.

Funny thing with all their money problems, the School District moves ahead with the Stadium at University High. I also have not seen any Deputy Superintendant or other high level management cuts made to their budget. Nope, they use the tired old, let’s cut teachers and increase classroom size scare tactics they know will register with parents. That always works with the uniformed public. Granted the schools are in a financial bind, but still have fat left in their budget. My positon is keep the teachers and get rid of the Administrators.

Now that the Agranistas have all this money to burn, can we assume that they will be restoring the “Merit Pay” they stole last year, from the Cops in America’s Safest City. “No,” I didn’t think so, since the Police Association quit representing their members years ago. Such is life in “Paradise?”

For astute Irvine residents, no jobs were cut from the Irvine PD and there were no wage cuts either.  But bonuses were frozen.  Those of us in the private sector know bonuses are something you’re paid when your employer is flush with money and your employment peformance helped contribute to it.  Since Irvine cops average $118,000 a year compared with teachers who don’t come close to it but face much bigger financial issues, Kang’s proposal simply recognizes that great schools go hand in hand with a safe city. 

The interesting tidbit that emerged from all this has to do with council candidate Jeff Lalloway’s stunt to call for the city to give $5 million to the schools as a one time.  In comments to the Voice of OC post, Rodgers – a Shea confidant – admits that even Shea didn’t support Lalloway’s proposal. 

I’d like to see Shea, Rodgers and Lalloway join a host of Irvine paretns who’d like to lower the threshold for passing a local parcel tax.  Currently, you need a 2/3 majority when previous attempts to pass a parcel tax came in at greater than 60 percent.  It’s clear a majority wants a new source of revenue that aids Irvine’s excellent schools while minimizing the tax burden on property owners who clearly benefit in high property values because of our excellent schools.

Parents who care about education need to come to the May 11 city council meeting and voice their support for the mayor’s plan of the challenge grant to benefit IUSD.  Add your voice to this important decision and show our appreciation to the city for their help at a time it’s needed most.

  4 comments for “Pro-Education Irvine Voters Should Attend May 11 City Council Meeting

  1. Gavin Huntley-Fenner
    May 5, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Ah …. nice post for the most part Dan … I know you care about schools in Irvine, but I think you must have pulled some of your arguments off without doing even the bare minimum of journalistic investigation.

    A FAQ on the Irvine Unified district website (http://iusd.org/district_services/fiscal_services/BudgetFAQ.html), which has been up for months, shows the hard data regarding how well Irvine compares to other districts in OC in terms of admin (we’re 4th from the bottom out of 12 Unifieds in OC). Our admin costs are on the order of 3 to 4%.

    The recent salary cuts this year and next year were across *all* staff including administrators (many of whom will likely be working despite the furlough days b/c that is how much they care about our (*your*) kids. For our administrators, like all professionals these days working weekends and late nights is the common). What the IUSD FAQ doesn’t say is that we stack up well even in national comparisons in terms of admin costs and we have been recognized by S&P for our financial stewardship.

    Frankly, we may be too thin in admin. Not having trained leadership coming up the ranks can be a problem for an organization whenever there are retirements, illnesses, etc. Not that I am complaining, but low admin costs comes with its own risks.

    BTW the budget for the stadium as you well know has nothing to do with the budget for teachers etc.

    • Dan Chmielewski
      May 5, 2010 at 12:09 pm

      Gavin –
      I think what you read, and it’s my fault for not clearly marketing the end of his comment, was a notation from Pat Rodgers, former council candidate. I have gone back to italicize his statement to clearly differentiate what he said from what I said. But the statements are his not mine. Good catch.
      Dan

      • Gavin Huntley-Fenner
        May 7, 2010 at 4:22 am

        Thanks for the clarification Dan.

        • Dan Chmielewski
          May 7, 2010 at 9:09 am

          Gavin — No, THANK YOU for pointing out the difficulty in determining where Rodgers statement ended and mine began.

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