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Is School Funding a Struggle or a Scam?

March 16, 2003

Re "Irvine Schools Deserve a Yes," editorial, March 9:

The facts show that your editorial is a clueless call to heap more taxes on a community that, like others, is being scammed by their school board.

Irvine Unified's current budget report shows that the school board ended fiscal 2001-02 with a cash surplus of $17 million, $9 million of which is unrestricted cash.

You'll also find that huge cash surplus from 2001-02 isn't reported as available revenue for this year. Where does it go? Take a look in County Fund 694 and you'll discover that Irvine Unified is sitting on a $52-million pile of unrestricted cash similarly skimmed from previous years' tax money.

School districts are supposed to operate on zero-based budgets, with no cash surplus carried over. The annual reserve required by AB 1200 ranges between 2% and 3% of expenditures, about $3.5 million for Irvine Unified, and even that reserve is supposed to be zeroed-out at year-end.

Yet, your editorial says that Irvine Unified "has barely patched its budgets together ... using last-minute donations in place of gum and bailing wire." Your lack of information should be an embarrassment to you.

John Rossmann

Tustin

*

Re "Debating Irvine Unified Assessment Proposal," March 2:

While those of us working hard to preserve the tradition of educational excellence in Irvine appreciate the Times' endorsement of the proposed Recreation Improvement and Maintenance District, I would like to clarify two points.

First, the editorial claimed that two previous efforts to pass a parcel tax fell "far short of the required two-thirds majority." Actually, there were three attempts to pass a parcel tax, none of which failed by more than 3 percentage points. If not for the unfair burden a two-thirds requirement places on such taxes, the measures would have passed resoundingly.

Second, the editorial left the impression that the feasibility study was paid for by the Irvine Unified School District. In fact, the Irvine Public Schools Foundation and a private donor underwrote the cost of the study. No classroom-designated dollars from the district were used.

The editorial does well to point out how troubling it is to have to jump through so many hoops to provide adequate funding for our schools. Even if the assessment is successful, schools in Irvine will still require millions of dollars of subsidies from private resources to provide art, science and music instruction, pay for smaller class sizes, pay for health education and services and even provide basic classroom necessities for teachers. In Irvine, we are fortunate to have corporate and community members willing to make substantial contributions to ensure the excellence of our schools.

Tim Shaw

Chief executive,

Irvine Public Schools

Foundation

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