We received this essay from Gavin Huntley-Fenner, an IUSD Trustee and a deserving public servent up for re-election in Irvine, on Measure R on the ballot for city voters seeking to help fund Irvine’s excellent schools.
By Gavin Huntley-Fenner
Consider the following
- Irvine schools are a primary reason people move to the city.Â The schools are a major draw/recruiting tool for local businesses that are trying to attract new hires or to relocate to Irvine.
- Just as education is important to Irvine, high quality schools are important to California businesses and key to California’s long term viability as a global scale economy.
- Irvine would be better off if it were less dependent on Sacramento
- Irvine is one of the top performing school districts in the state of California and we are one of the most prudent stewards of taxpayer dollars.Â A few years ago, we were recognized by School Data Direct a Standard & Poors organization as being one of the more fiscally responsible and financially efficient districts in the county.Â We have become even more efficient since then and more effective in terms of student performance.Â For example, in the last few years we’ve cut waste hauling and slashed electricity costs through enhanced recycling and solar power initiatives.Â Part of the reason Irvine Unified is so effective is that it enjoys the support of the business community including many chamber members such as the Irvine Company, Hoag, Maruchan Foods, Kaiser, Vizio, Oakley, Samsung, Kia, AT&T, Broadcom, Wells Fargo, Schools First Credit Union and Yum Brands to name a few.Â The schools also depend on the goodwill of many chamber members for their individual support (a recent example is chamber member and city council candidate Lynn Schott’s successful initiative with local churches in support of clothes and school supplies for homeless students and Roland Boucher’s work coaching middle school science students for competitions).
Having cut $38Mn out of our district budget over two years (~$200Mn per year annual operating budget) our strong schools are at risk.Â Irvine’s Measure R is a way to stabilize the near term future of IUSD in the context of uncertain state budgets.Â It limits Irvine’s exposure to Sacramento (goodness knows when we will get a state budget and how much education will be cut).Â It puts the onus on parents and the local community to support schools as much or as little as they are inclined or able to do.Â Exposure from a city budget perspective is limited to be no more than current funding (even at the nadir of the economy an affordable amount in Irvine).Â Going forward, if the economy continues to do poorly, then parents and businesses will give less and the city’s obligation will be reduced.
Finally, we know exactly what the money is going to be used for, such as smaller class sizes and more health and guidance counselors, and we know that those uses have been and continue to be highly effective in improving children’s success in Irvine schools.
Opponents have threeÂ primary objections:
1. This is purely political and is a partisan stunt in favor of the city council majority.
The city council vote to put the measure on the ballot was unanimous.Â All members of the city council both Republicans and Democrats are in support of Measure R.Â
2. This is budgeting by ballot is bad practice (governing body gives up its flexibility)
This is a good point.Â Clearly measure R is not a viable long term solution.Â It should be time limited.Â Three years is prudent and supports common sense budgeting in that school districts need to haveÂ three years of balanced budgets.Â Moreover, the time frame gives the school community some breathing room to work on longer term more sustainable fiscal reforms.
3. This shall encumber future city councils
All of the persons (elected and non-elected) who know the finances of the city and the school district most deeply and who have a fiduciary responsibility to the voters are in favor.Â The mainstream candidates for city council (Republicans and Democrats ) are in support of this measure.Â All of the school board members two of whom are running for re-election are likewise in favor. The individuals who are likely going to be in office during the term of this measure are all running Measure R and argue that it is a good idea.
There may be good points pro and con but the argument weighs in favor of Measure R all things considered.