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ORANGE COUNTY VOICES

Selfishness Shot Down Irvine School Tax

Private donations will now fill the gap for the district, but to say 'We told you so' is hypocrisy.

May 07, 2000|KURT NORLIN | Kurt Norlin has lived in Irvine for 11 years

Measure A, the parcel tax meant to close a gaping hole in the Irvine schools budget, was narrowly defeated. Let's now take stock and see what is, and is not, happening in the Irvine Unified School District.

First, the "not" part. Science and fine arts programs are not being axed. No class size increases are planned. No teachers or staff are being fired. In short, the dire predictions of the pro-A side are (for now) not coming true. Thank goodness.

Lest the chorus of "We told you so" turn everyone's heads, however, here are some other things not happening in Irvine. The school district is not cutting waste. Any fat in the budget disappeared in previous cuts over the last 10 years. The money hasn't arrived suddenly from Sacramento either. Senate Bill 1542 would provide some more state dollars down the road, but the bill may not pass and in any case is not expected to make a difference for next year. Neither is the money coming out of extra cash bouncing around the Irvine city purse.

What is happening is that the Irvine Co. is moving up the timetable for previously pledged contributions, the Bren Foundation has come in with an added grant, and lots of regular folk are chipping in, via the Irvine Public School Foundation, with smaller sums to keep Irvine's schools afloat for the coming year.

It's revealing how little these details matter to the "We told you so" crowd. They don't care how the school district's books balance, so long as it's not through taxes. These are people who don't trust their government to collect and spend money responsibly. The tax haters, in fact, would be pleased to see this informal funding arrangement made permanent.

But the parcel tax opponents don't just want to shake down the rich. Unlikely to give their own money to a system they've declared to be rife with waste and maybe even corruption, they are nonetheless demanding a $95 contribution from everyone who voted for the parcel tax. This is the same amount as the tax, which was alleged to be unfair to low-income homeowners. Small homeowners who were willing to sacrifice along with everyone else and voted for the tax might be a little annoyed at now being badgered for donations by their sometime protectors, who are keeping their own wallets tucked away.

That some of the arguments for Measure A overreached, a reasonable person might accept. But it's not as though the district, its bluff called, is now shaking the missing money out of its own sleeves. The schools are being saved through private donations, large and small. If Irvine residents contribute, they will have the frustration of knowing that they are keeping the schools afloat while fellow citizens decided not to help. On the other hand, this could also be a source of satisfaction, if they let it. (Contributions should go to the Irvine Public Schools Foundation, 4330 Barranca Parkway, Suite 235, Irvine, CA 92604).

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