State Sen. Ross Johnson (R-Irvine) has introduced a bill that could help Newport-Mesa Unified qualify for its first state money to modernize and upgrade school buildings. The district never has been eligible for such funds because its schools are too new and its communities too wealthy. Moreover, while some schools, such as Andersen Elementary, are so crowded that parents are screaming for more space, others have been closed because of a lack of students.
But because the $9.2-billion school bond measure approved by voters in November has more flexible requirements, the district may get a piece of the building-fund pie. The only problem is the state may not allow the district to apply.
During the county bankruptcy, the district sold the Bear Street School and put the $5-million proceeds into its general fund. The state allowed this usually forbidden practice because of the circumstances but told the district it could not receive any state building money for five years. District officials now want to apply for state modernization funds and hope to file a preliminary application for a modest project within the next few months. The district would not receive any of the money until 2000, so its application should be allowed, officials said.
Since district officials didn't want to take the chance the application would be rejected, they turned to Johnson for assistance. The bill must be approved by the Senate and Assembly.