It’s business as usual for school bus routes as Durham and its drivers reach agreement


A negotiations stalemate between Durham School Services and its association of bus drivers has been resolved, ending the threat of a work stoppage.

Durham provides home-to-school transportation for nearly 1,000 students in Irvine through 60 local routes, and the company also serves the Santa Ana and Laguna Beach districts.

In February, a collective bargaining impasse resulted in Durham’s drivers authorizing a possible strike. But IUSD has been notified that the two sides were able to reach a tentative agreement, which was formally ratified by union members over the weekend.

IUSD was not involved in the dispute, but the district’s transportation staff deserves plenty of kudos for working around the clock to develop contingency plans that would have ensured coverage for all routes. We’re pleased to hear those plans won’t be needed.

 


IUSD not expecting disruptions as Durham continues to negotiate with its drivers


IUSD has been told that contract negotiations are ongoing between Durham School Services and its association of bus drivers, and at this time the district is not anticipating any service disruptions.

Durham operates a majority of Irvine’s student busing routes and serves other districts, including Santa Ana and Laguna Beach. You may recall that last week the company reported reaching an impasse with its drivers, who authorized a possible strike.

On March 2, the two sides indicated they would continue bargaining.

Once again, IUSD is not involved in the labor dispute but will continue to monitor discussions. Noting that the safety and wellbeing of students is the district’s No. 1 priority, Superintendent Terry Walker has said IUSD will continue to develop contingency plans to ensure its routes are covered in the event of a work stoppage.

And we’ll continue posting updates here on the NewsFlash until the matter is resolved.


Bus drivers involved in labor dispute with Durham confirm they will not strike Monday


Bus drivers involved in a contract dispute with Durham School Services have confirmed they will not go on strike Monday, March 5.

Durham officials told IUSD on Friday that collective bargaining negotiations between the company and its association of drivers will continue through at least Thursday, March 8. In the meantime, routes in the Irvine Unified School District will continue to be serviced by Durham at the regular times and locations.

Durham School Services operates a majority of Irvine’s student busing routes and serves a number of other districts, including Santa Ana and Laguna Beach. This week the company reported that it had reached an impasse in negotiations with its drivers, who had authorized a possible strike.

IUSD is not involved in the labor dispute but is continuing to monitor discussions.

“The safety and wellbeing of our students remains our No. 1 priority, and we will continue to take proactive steps to ensure all of our routes are covered,” Superintendent Terry Walker said.

IUSD NewsFlash will continue to provide the latest updates.

 


Bus company that contracts with IUSD is at an impasse with drivers, who authorize strike


(Update: For the latest developments, click here.)

The Irvine Unified School District has recently been informed that Durham School Services, the transportation company that operates a majority of IUSD’s student busing routes, has reached an impasse during collective bargaining negotiations with its drivers, who have authorized a possible strike beginning Monday, March 5.

IUSD’s Transportation Department has been working to secure the services of alternate busing companies and backup drivers to ensure that all district routes are covered in the event of a work stoppage, which would also effect the Santa Ana and Laguna Beach school districts. At this time our district is not anticipating service disruptions, though families that rely on busing are encouraged to check the NewsFlash for any updates throughout the weekend.

Once again, only those who utilize IUSD’s busing services would potentially be impacted by a strike. IUSD, which is not involved in the labor dispute but continues to monitor negotiations, has been told that Durham and union representatives will continue to meet through the weekend.

In the meantime, Irvine’s transportation administrator has reached out to other companies, including Certified Transportation Services and American Logistics Company, to ensure all routes are covered.

Once again, for news and updates on the Durham labor dispute and its impact on IUSD, check back with the NewsFlash, or click here.


Budget Notebook: Uncertainty at the state level means IUSD must plan for the worst


BY ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT JOHN FOGARTY

More details have come out about the governor’s budget proposal, and unfortunately they’re not in our favor.

As previously mentioned, Gov. Jerry Brown’s spending plan for 2012-13 is heavily reliant on a November ballot initiative that would temporarily raise taxes for high-income earners and increase the sales tax by a half-cent through 2016. If the initiative passes, education spending would essentially remain flat. If it fails to win voter approval, so-called “trigger” language would slash funding for K-12 schools by $4.8 billion.

The latter figure would result in an ongoing cut of about $370 per student, or approximately $10.4 million for IUSD alone. Coupled with a proposed elimination of home-to-school and special education transportation funding, our district could see a loss of about $11.5 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Again, the governor’s January proposal is merely a starting point for ongoing discussions, and these figures are based on the assumption that the ballot measure will be rejected by voters. But all school districts in California must submit their spending plans by June 30 and make staffing decisions much sooner. As such, we must develop our budgets with worst-case scenarios in mind.

IUSD has grown accustomed to planning for the worst, and we have remained on strong financial ground relative to other districts thanks in large part to the sacrifices made by our employees, who have endured furlough days and program cuts, as well as the leadership of our Board of Education.

In anticipation of midyear cuts for the current year, our district set aside funds to ensure stability and continuity throughout 2011-12. Fortunately, those midyear cuts came in much lower than originally feared, leaving us with about $15 million in reserves. That may sound like a lot of money – and it is. But based on the latest revenue and expenditure forecasts, we’re projecting a deficit of $13.5 million for 2012-13. And that doesn’t factor in the potentially devastating cuts mentioned above.

Add the two together and the shortfall for 2012-13 grows to about $25 million. Factoring in our $15 million in reserves, the net challenge for 2012-13 becomes approximately $10 million.

Recognizing that any savings generated in the current year can be used to mitigate next year’s shortfall, our district has once again implemented a budget freeze for the remainder of the school year. Only expenditures that support the health and safety of children, are required or mandatory for programs, or support our mission-critical professional development initiatives will be approved.

This is not a step we take lightly, as we know it will have a significant impact on our schools’ day-to-day operations. At the same time, this strategy has proven to be highly effective by netting millions of dollars’ worth of onetime savings in previous years. The bottom line is this: The more we save this year, the less we’ll have to cut to balance the budget for 2012-13.

I don’t have to tell you that these are incredibly challenging times, exacerbated by the uncertainties at the state level. As discussions continue in Sacramento, new developments are likely to unfold that may alter our projections, for better or worse. It is our intent to communicate with you every step of the way as we pursue a number of proactive steps that will keep our district on solid financial ground.

As always, thank you for your patience and support.


Districts take little comfort in governor’s budget proposal, which is banking on a tax initiative


Over the last few years, IUSD has grown accustomed to operating in an environment of fiscal uncertainty, as state lawmakers have often deferred decisions and provided little in the way of concrete information while grappling with California’s budget crisis.

It now appears that uncertainty will continue. This month, Gov. Jerry Brown released his initial budget proposal for the 2012-13 fiscal year, and it seems to have generated more questions than answers.

The key takeaway is that the spending plan, revealed Jan. 5, is heavily reliant on a November ballot initiative that would temporarily raise taxes for high-income earners and increase the sales tax by a half-cent through 2016. If the measure passes, funding for schools would remain flat, according to the governor’s proposal. If the initiative is rejected by voters, K-12 education could be slashed by an additional $4.8 billion.

Either way, school districts are required to submit their budgets by the end of June, and some staffing decisions must be made sooner than that. John Fogarty, IUSD’s assistant superintendent of business services, said Irvine will work to have contingencies in place should the November ballot initiative fail.

Keep in mind that Gov. Brown’s proposal is merely a starting point for budget discussions that could last for months. The next fiscal milestone at the state level is May, when Brown is expected to release a revised spending plan based on the latest economic data.

Meanwhile, representatives from IUSD and other districts are closely scrutinizing details of the governor’s proposal for their own budget deliberations. Education officials hope to learn more at an upcoming budget workshop hosted by experts from School Services of California.


Budget Notebook: Lagging state revenue triggers cuts, though they’re less than expected


BY SUPERINTENDENT TERRY L. WALKER

This week, school districts in California finally got an answer to the question they’ve been grappling with for months: How much money will there be to support students this year?

You may recall that lawmakers in June adopted a state spending plan that included about $4 billion in optimistic revenue assumptions – as well as “trigger” language to reduce spending if those assumptions failed to pan out. Essentially, if revenue fell short by more than $2 billion, the state said it would automatically cut funding for schools and other public services.

And that’s exactly what happened. In a move that many had predicted, the governor pulled the trigger Tuesday on midyear cuts after the Department of Finance released its latest revenue forecast.

There was a significant silver lining, however, in that the reductions were far less than anticipated.

State revenues are projected to fall short by a little more than $2.2 billion, prompting a $248 million cut in home-to-school transportation and an additional reduction that amounts to $13 per student. By comparison, some experts were concerned about a hit as high as $349 per student.

So what does all this mean for IUSD?

Well, any budget conversation should include the caveat that state figures are subject to change. But the two cuts are expected to result in a loss of as much as $1.5 million for Irvine, and while that’s a sizeable amount, it could have been much worse.

The bottom line is our district will have enough revenue to cover costs through 2011-12 – in large part because we took a number of proactive steps to blunt the impact of midyear cuts. Most notably, our district budgeted with the belief that the state’s revenue projections were far too rosy and set aside funds for the inevitable hit.

This cautious and conservative approach has paid off and put us in a better position than most districts. At the same time, California has yet to resolve its larger fiscal imbalance, and additional state cuts will likely be included when the governor releases his 2012-13 budget proposal in January. We may even see more trigger language in future budgets.

Meanwhile, it should also be noted that IUSD continues to operate with a significant structural deficit, meaning we’re spending more dollars than we’re receiving and bridging the gaps with onetime carryover funds. This represents an intentional strategy to weather the storm as long as we can, ensuring current students won’t be denied a quality K-12 education because they happen to grow up in an era of budget cuts. However, onetime funds – similar to dollars in your savings account – only last so long. Barring an imminent economic rebound in California, our district will ultimately have to make the necessary budget adjustments to produce a balanced and sustainable spending plan.

Irvine, of course, has already endured its share of cuts. Over a recent two-year span, we made approximately $38 million worth of onetime and ongoing reductions, resulting in larger class sizes and districtwide furlough days. Looking ahead, our Board of Education and staff will almost certainly need to consider additional reductions, but that’s not the only way to bridge a gap. We are also in the process of exploring ways to generate new revenue for our schools.

On the latter front, our board recently directed members of our district’s Finance Committee to recommend revenue enhancement options that might supplement state funding. A smaller subcommittee researched best practices around the country and ultimately came up with a number of possibilities, including naming rights for facilities, a tax on hotel rooms, mandated tuition for visiting foreign students, a parcel tax, use of district assets, alumni donations and student parking fees.

Again, these are merely options. But the board has directed staff to study the feasibility of each idea and present recommendations at a future meeting. Meanwhile, the Irvine Public Schools Foundation continues to work hard to raise funds for our schools as part of a dollar-for-dollar matching campaign with the City of Irvine. If you’ve ever considered making a donation, or if you’d simply like to learn more about IPSF, I urge you to visit www.ipsf.net.

It’s hard to believe that we are still talking about the current budget crisis after so many years, and I know the Great Recession has taken a personal toll on many of our families. At the same time, we have so much to be grateful for in IUSD.

This year alone, two of our high schools were selected as semifinalists in the prestigious Grammy Signature School program, which annually recognizes campuses that provide exceptional music opportunities. Meanwhile, all five middle schools were lauded by The Orange County Register in its annual breakdown of the county’s best middle schools. And all of our schools continue to move the needle on standards tests, earning our district a cumulative score of 921 on the state’s Academic Performance Index, which measures achievement on a scale of 200 to 1,000. None of
this would be possible without our tremendous partnerships, which put the collective power of “us” in IUSD.

I wish I could tell you today that the state budget crisis was waning, or that our district was immune to the whims of Sacramento politics. I can, however, say with certainty that great things are happening each and every day in our classrooms, and for that we have to thank our committed students, our incredible staff and this exceptional community, which has never wavered from its pursuit of educational excellence.

Our challenges may be great, but our collective resolve to build and sustain world-class schools for the children of Irvine is far greater. As always, I thank you for your support.