BY SUPERINTENDENT TERRY L. WALKER
This month’s election has finally brought some clarity to IUSD’s budget outlook, and perhaps given rise to a little optimism.
Specifically, the passage of Proposition 30 has prevented midyear “trigger cuts” at the state level by generating revenue for schools and other programs, as California voters have agreed to temporarily raise taxes for high-income earners while increasing the sales tax through 2016.
That doesn’t mean a windfall of new funding for our schools by any stretch, but it does stop Sacramento from leveling additional cuts in the middle of the current school year. It also means our district won’t need to consider furlough days for the current school year. Considering what this loss of instructional time would have meant for our students and staff, we consider this a huge step in the right direction.
You may recall that state lawmakers based this year’s spending plan on the assumption that Proposition 30 would win approval, but the initiative’s passage was far from a sure thing, leaving school districts to ponder twin scenarios. Most developed their own budgets with contingency plans that included furlough days.
While Proposition 30 prevents additional losses this year – $12.2 million for Irvine Unified alone – it is important to recognize that this measure does not add new dollars or restore prior cuts. Meanwhile, our district, like most others in the state, continues to operate with a structural deficit as a result of previous reductions, which have shrunk our funding envelope by 22.3 percent since 2008.
Our district has made a strategic choice to temporarily backfill these shortfalls with one-time reserve funds to ensure today’s students aren’t shortchanged by the sluggish economy. But reserve funds are similar to personal savings in that they won’t last forever. While projections indicate we may be able to maintain current spending levels through 2013-14 without new revenue, our deficit will have to be addressed sooner or later.
We will also continue to monitor talks out of Sacramento, where Governor Jerry Brown is expected to release his next budget proposal in January. A revised version of his spending plan will likely follow in May, and we’re anticipating that a new budget will be in place by the summer.
In the meantime, we are happy to report that Irvine’s own school funding initiative, Measure BB, also passed on Nov. 6. This local measure will significantly increase the amount of funding IUSD generously receives from the City of Irvine through the Educational Partnership Fund, which supports health and guidance needs, and the Challenge Match Grant, which directly impacts classroom instruction. The latter grant is a dollar-for-dollar match with the Irvine Public Schools Foundation, and I encourage you to learn more about the foundation’s fundraising efforts by visiting www.ipsf.net.
I don’t have to tell you that the last few years have not been easy, yet our district has remained a great place for kids thanks to the leadership of our Board of Education, the dedication of our tremendous employees and the generous support of this community. We remain as committed as ever to making every penny count in Irvine, and, as we discussed at our most recent Board of Education meeting, we are continuing to pursue new opportunities for revenue enhancement. Expect to hear more on this important topic.
Because there will always be some volatility at the state level, I can’t promise that there won’t be occasional setbacks for public education. But I have never been more excited to be a part of this organization, which continues to explore the potential of new innovations and technologies capable of leveraging the talents of our extraordinary staff and maximizing our support for each student.
While we can only hope that the darkest days of California’s fiscal crisis are behind us, I can say with confidence that the best is yet to come for the Irvine Unified School District.