The note below arrived in my mailbox from Terry Walker, IUSD Superintendent, because I’m a parent of an Irvine Unified student, not because of the blog. Commentary in a moment:
I recently wrote to you about the Irvine Unified School District’s (IUSD) plans to update our aging schools to a similar standard as our newer schools, so that all of IUSD’s more than 32,000 students have access to 21st-century instructional technology and learning tools. To achieve this important goal, IUSD is considering placing a School Facility Improvement Measure on the June 7, 2016 ballot to provide a dedicated and locally-controlled funding source for the most urgent upgrades in our aging schools.
Updating Aging Schools More than half of IUSD schools are more than 30 years old and are in critical need of upgrades and modernization. While some of our more recently built schools have modern classrooms and science labs, others do not. IUSD has worked to develop a Comprehensive Facilities Master Plan for the improvement of our school facilities. This process included a thorough expert assessment of each of our school campuses and input from teachers, principals, parents and students to identify the highest priority needs.
Planning for the Future of Our Schools and Students With the District’s school facility needs identified and prioritized, IUSD is now evaluating options for funding improvements to our schools. On March 1, at 6:30 p.m. at the IUSD Administration Center (5050 Barranca Parkway, Irvine) the IUSD Board of Education will hold a public hearing about placing a School Facility Improvement Measure on the June 2016 ballot. The public is invited to attend this meeting and share their thoughts.
Continuing IUSD’s Standard of Excellence IUSD is proud that our students continue to perform among the best in Orange County and in the state. We are fortunate to have outstanding teachers, challenging and innovative academic programs and a community that supports Irvine students and schools. These are all essential elements of maintaining the top quality education for which Irvine is known. If passed, a School Facilities Improvement Measure would help support outstanding student achievement by ensuring students have equal access to facilities that support 21st-century education and career opportunities.
Your Feedback Is Important We asked for your priorities for updating our schools and by clicking here, you’ll find information about the school facility planning process and how we are using your comments and feedback. If you would like more information, please click here for frequently asked questions or visit our website iusd.org/schoolimprovements. You may also contact us directly at SFIMinfo@iusd.org.
Now this looks like a lot of information, but it’s not. There’s a public hearing and here’s when it will be held. Our schools are awesome. Our teachers are awesome. And we want to keep it that way. Every Irvine parent with kids at IUSD knows this.
However, the last paragraph is very misleading. “Your feedback is important.” No it’s not. It’s only important if it already aligns with the pre-determined decisions made by IUSD administration and trustees about what it needs to do. There are dozens of examples of community and parental feedback that have gotten lip service or ignored over the years (and I’m in my 19th year as an IUSD parent). That’s a line — your feedback is important — that will work with families new to IUSD, not those of us who’ve been around the block with this district for years. Three words prove this: Portola High School. The community’s feedback about possible toxics on the site wasn’t important there. I’ll point out that IUSD isn’t alone in this distinction in OC; a lot of school districts ask for feedback and ignore it.
What’s missing from Walker’s message? The cost.
The estimates for the Bond are at least $300 million with the new funding to address the highest priority needs in IUSD’s Master Facilities Plan. That plan has identified more than $700 million in total need.
Back in December, we posed some question to IUSD about the Bond. Here’s what we learned (and the answers are courtesy of IUSD):
Does this bond measure only impact homeowners with school children in the district or all homeowners?
All registered voters residing within the School Facilities Improvement District (SFID) will have the opportunity to vote on the proposed measure. Property owners within the SFID boundary would be subject to the cost of the measure if it is approved by voters. The proposed SFID would encompass the neighborhoods serving the following schools:
|Elementary/K-8 Schools||Middle Schools||High Schools|
Rancho San Joaquin
And how would renters be participating in this bond?
As is required by law, the direct cost of the measure is limited to property owners within the SFID boundary, which includes owners of condos, apartment buildings, commercial office buildings, other retail and commercial properties, etc.
What about business property owners?
All property owners within the SFID boundary would be subject to the cost of the measure, including business property owners.
Just how much money would each family be contributing to this bond?
This decision has not yet been finalized. The Board will vote on the amount during the March 1 Board Meeting. At this time, the range is $29-$43 per $100,000 of assessed value (not to be confused with market value, which is typically much higher). The estimated annual range is $122 to $203 per year, based on the average assessed value in Irvine.
So you know, that’s an increase of $122 to $203 a year for the next 30 years. So one public hearing and a vote on the amount? Really?
The District has tried and failed twice before to pass a parcel tax largely because, while there was broad support in the community for the tax, it could never get the required two-thirds majority to make it happen. When I asked State Rep. Don Wagner about lowering the threshold for passing a parcel tax four years ago, he practically choked on his cup of punch so you know Irvine’s state assembly and state senate representatives aren’t going to help.
What’s also missing from this discussion is what specifically each school requires in terms of upgrades, a plan to do the actual work, how long it will take, and what sort of displacement will happen with students while schools undergo repair.
Included in this Bond measure is the District’s Technology plan — crafted three years ago by mostly academics who understand how to use technology in education — which is already out of date. Streaming technologies, improved Internet access, better Wireless connection and issues of data security from unprotected BYOD devices to the schools network need to be better addressed. I’d like to see input from people familiar with rolling out a distributed network that can handle tens of thousands of users. Frankly, a technology plan needs frequent updating and less interference from big technology vendors like Apple who view school districts as a ripe profit center for new sales.
The best thing I can say about the Bond is at least it’s fair. Early phone surveys indicated that only homeowners would be hit with the tab. Not businesses, not renters, not apartment complexes. Since half of Irvine’s residents live in apartments (with many struggling to afford an apartment in town so their kids can attend a great school), the price is about to go up.