Another Challenge Grant in Irvine, But Different Rules

Irvine City Council Tuesday approved another $1 million challenge grant to the Irvine Public Schools Foundation. But this time the strings are tighter — the foundation will have 14 days to transfer money it receives from the city to the Irvine and Tustin unified school districts.

The new rule stems from a controversy surrounding the last challenge grant to the foundation. Councilwoman Christina Shea accused the foundation of holding onto the money it received for longer than it should have.

The money sat in a bank account and the foundation accrued $1,300 in interest money it used for printing and administrative costs, according to foundation CEO Neda Zaengle.

The challenge grant is a matching grant program aimed at alleviating the impact of growing classrooms. Providing that the foundation and districts can raise matching funds, Irvine schools would receive up to $875,200, and Tustin schools would receive up to $124,800.

The opportunity for the grant money comes as the school districts are dealing with crippling budget deficits and have had to cut their school year from 180 to 175 school days.

“If you think about that in a child’s entire K through 12 experience. . . we’re talking about 65 days – 65 days that are gone, ” Mayor Pro Tem Larry Agran said.

Agran said he voted for the grant with “mixed emotions” because of the looming state crisis, which is forcing school districts to operate with less money.