MISSION VIEJO : $20,000 Voted for Academic Decathlon

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The City Council has earmarked $20,000 for four South County high school academic decathlon teams whose funding was recently eliminated by the Saddleback Valley Unified School District.

At a budget workshop this week, the council voted, 3 to 2, to set aside $20,000 for the teams, including the state champion Laguna Hills High squad. Each team would receive $5,000, with the money coming from the city’s $26.2-million budget for 1991-92.

The council will cast a final vote on the budget next month.

“I think it’s important for the city to support the pursuit of academic excellence,” said Mayor Robert A. Curtis, who brought the funding proposal to the council. “We’re talking about providing emergency assistance to keep the kids going through the summer, while they obtain private funding and contributions.”


But council members William S. Craycraft and Sharon Cody argued against the appropriation, saying that half of the $20,000 would go to Laguna Hills and El Toro high schools--both outside Mission Viejo.

But Curtis said he will ask the councils-elect of recently incorporated Laguna Hills and Lake Forest--where those schools are located--to repay Mission Viejo when the new cities begin operating later this year.

He added that he will drop those requests for funding if there is no support for the decathlon in Laguna Hills and Lake Forest.

Cody said the council should not single out one program for aid when the district cut or reduced many programs.

“This year our entire budget for groups that come to us for help is $50,000,” Cody noted.

“The floodgates are going to open with all the cuts the district has imposed,” Cody said. “We can’t help them all.”

The city has already received about $70,000 this month in funding requests, mostly from school groups, city officials said.


Kathy Lane, co-coach of the Laguna Hills High decathlon team, said she is pleased by the council’s desire to help. But any money her squad would see from the city will not come until early July, and the students are already studying for the November’s competition.

“We have materials that should be purchased as soon as possible,” she said. “The need for funding for the academic decathlon is now.”