Irvine council member Larry Agran is spearheading an iniative, the SoS Initiative for Save Our Schools, for the November election that would direct about $1.5 million to cash poor schools in Irvine served by IUSD and even TUSD without raising taxes a dime. So if you’re heading to one of the graduation ceremonies in town this weekend, don’t be surprised to see some signature gatherers seeking an influx of a lot of people available to sign in a short amount of time to place the measure on the ballot. Irvine aleready provides about $6 million to local schools directly and via in-kind contributions, and with IUSD projecting large budget shortfalls that seem to never end, the move by the city to give another $1.5 million out of the general fund without raising taxes should be welcome news.
Except that it’s not.
My friends in local PTAs are taking a, very curious, hands off approach to SoS because the funds do come with strings attached. This lack of enthusiam is somewhat troubling to me and runs counter to the legislative action work done to lobby state lawmakers into shorting up Irvine’s well under state average budget figures.
Here’s some detail on what the Initiative does:
The Support Our Schools initiative is proposed for the November 2012 ballot. Once passed by voters, the initiative will:
- Allocate $2.5 million annually to the Irvine Educational Partnership Fund to support academic performance for K-12 Irvine students served by the Irvine and Tustin Unified School Districts from 2013 through 2016
- Allocate $1.5 million annually from 2013 to 2016 to support programs designed to reduce class size – these funds are designed to be matched by corporations and nonprofit organizations
- Provide funding for classroom teachers, instructional aides, school nurses, school safety officers, classroom supplies and sports facilities
Under this initiative, school funds are allocated from the City General Fund with no new taxes.
“Irvine public schools consistently rank among the finest in the nation based on their outstanding educational environment and commitment to success,” said Larry Agran, Chair of the Support Our Schools initiative. “State budget cuts are reducing the number of classroom teachers and instruction days, increasing class sizes, and slashing budgets for school health programs and school security. S.O.S. is the international code for distress…our schools are facing an emergency and we must act now to Support Our Schools…right here in Irvine.”
As a result of the continuing state budget crisis, the Irvine and Tustin Unified School Districts have made more than $50 million in budget reductions since April 2009, resulting in deep cutbacks in their annual operating budgets.
According to a report recently issued by the Irvine Unified School District, deeper cuts are on the horizon. Next year, K-12 schools could be hit with $4.8 billion “trigger cuts” if Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed tax hikes do not gain voter approval in the November election. That comes out to a loss of about $10.4 million for IUSD, John Fogarty, assistant superintendent of business services, said during a Board of Education study session. In addition to proposed cuts to home-to-school and special education transportation, the district would lose $11.5 million for 2012-2013. These severe budget cuts would result in an ongoing cut of about $370 per student.
In 2010, the Irvine voters approved a school support initiative for fiscal years 2010 through 2014 by a margin of 78.2% to 21.8%. This new initiative would more than double the amount of money contributed annually by the city to Irvine schools and extend the commitment through 2016 without raising taxes.
According to The US Census Bureau, California ranks 35th in the nation in per pupil spending. From the story in the Sacramento Bee:
Thus, the Census Bureau tagged California’s $58.9 billion in 2009-10 “current spending” at $9,375 per pupil, which was $1,240 less than the national average of $10,675 and placed it 35th . The District of Columbia was highest at $18,667, followed by New York, Wyoming, New Jersey and Connecticut. Utah was lowest at $6,064.
Total California spending, including $7.2 billion in capital outlay and ancillary costs, was pegged at $68.1 billion.
In terms of revenue from all sources, California’s $10,581 per pupil was 40th in the nation. Its revenue, some $65 billion, was calculated at 4.25 percent of personal income, while its spending, 3.77 percent of personal income, was 42nd. In relation to personal income, Alaska was tops in both revenue and spending.
The state government supplied $34.2 billion of school revenues in 2009-10, or 52.6 percent, which was higher than the national average of 43.5 percent. The federal government’s 15 percent was also higher than the national average of 12.5 percent, while local source revenues at 32.5 percent were below the national average of 44 percent, reflecting Proposition 13′s limits on local property taxes.