City explores $900,000 grant for class support

For the second time in two years, the City of Irvine is discussing a potential pledge of nearly $900,000 in matching funds to help IUSD mitigate the impacts of larger class sizes – a consequence of the state budget crisis.

The Irvine City Council, following the recommendation of Mayor Sukhee Kang, agreed Tuesday to explore a “challenge grant” that would kick in a dollar for every dollar raised by the district’s fundraising partner, the Irvine Public Schools Foundation. If the City approves the grant, and IPSF is able to raise an equal amount, IUSD schools would receive nearly $1.8 million for class-size support.

“We are so grateful to have the support of such extraordinary partners as the City of Irvine and the Irvine Public Schools Foundation, particularly as Sacramento continues to slash funding for education,” said IUSD Superintendent Gwen Gross.

Raising $900,000 to leverage the full amount from the City wouldn’t be an easy task, but IPSF has a nice head start, having already netted more than $500,000 for class support through its recent “Five Week Campaign.” And history is on the foundation’s side, as a similar matching grant program was successful two years ago.

In 2008, the Irvine City Council voted to match up to $900,000 in donations to IUSD, and IPSF did the rest, bringing the total contribution to approximately $1.8 million. As a result, fourth- through sixth-grade classes that increased in size as a result of the loss of state revenue benefited from additional support, including instructional aides, while middle and high schools added teaching hours.

The IUSD Board of Education would ultimately decide how to best utilize the new class-size support funds. But the dollars would no doubt make a significant impact districtwide, Dr. Gross said.  The City is also discussing a smaller matching grant for campuses that are part of the Tustin Unified School District but located in Irvine.

“This level of generosity and collaboration is simply unprecedented,” Dr. Gross said.