I am pleased to report that the City Council is apparently going to extend a commitment of more than $4 million a year in City support for all Irvine schools. At its July 14th meeting, a unanimous City Council voted to extend what is known as “Measure BB” funding for at least a year or two beyond its scheduled expiration date in 2016.
In 2012, it was my privilege to Co-Chair a citywide Support Our Schools initiative effort — which became known as the SOS “Yes” on Measure BB campaign. A second Co-Chair of the historic Measure BB effort was P.K. Wong, who is also a leader in Irvine’s senior citizen community. The two of us worked with then-City Councilmember Larry Agran, whose vision it was to rally the Irvine community — by way of an initiative — to allocate millions of dollars from the City’s surplus to help fund all Irvine schools for at least three years.
Larry Agran, a Harvard-educated attorney, wrote Measure BB. Instead of just handing over City money to the schools, Measure BB specified where the funding was to go. The added City funding — amounting to about $100 per student per year — was designated to hire more school nurses and dozens of part-time teaching assistants to help with classroom instruction. Funding was also provided to assign additional School Resource Officers to provide a greater measure of police protection and public safety in our high schools and middle schools.
In 2012, to qualify the initiative for the ballot, we needed to gather about 11,000 valid signatures — one at a time — from registered Irvine voters. To accomplish this daunting task, we enlisted scores of volunteers, some going door-to-door while others of us gathered signatures at markets and coffee shops, on sidewalks outside the schools, and at sporting events and concerts and graduations…wherever we could talk with Irvine voters and explain the importance of the initiative. It was a lot of hard work, but what a great experience in grassroots democracy!
In the end, we turned in 18,000 signatures, an astounding achievement that ensured that the initiative would qualify for the November, 2012 ballot. On Election Night, when the votes were counted, a remarkable 70 percent of Irvine voters said “yes” to Measure BB — and so it became the law of the City for its specified three years.
The broad, citywide consensus, which now includes a unanimous City Council, is that Measure BB is a huge success, improving the quality of the educational experience for every child in every public school in Irvine — whether that school is administered by the Irvine Unified School District or the Tustin Unified School District.
Thank you, P.K. Wong. Thank you, Larry Agran. And thanks to the hundreds of Irvine citizen-activists who worked so hard for our Measure BB victory!
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