Irvine Parents Pay to Keep Small Classes

Times Staff Writer

A two-month fund-raising effort that netted $350,000 prompted Irvine school trustees to agree Tuesday to keep classes at 20 students or less in kindergarten through second grade next fall despite the state's budget cuts.

In addition, the Irvine Public Schools Foundation presented the school board with a check for $1 million, the first installment of $2.18 million promised to pay for art, science and music programs this school year. The rest probably will be delivered in May, foundation chief Tim Shaw said.

The foundation also organized the campaign to raise money to keep smaller class sizes in lower grades. Shaw said only six of the 1,200 donations in the most recent pledge drive were for more than $1,000, and nearly all were from parents whose children would have been placed in larger classes.

For the last three years, private funds have rescued the district's smaller classes, along with art, music and science. Shaw said the foundation generates the most money of any nonprofit district group statewide.

Shaw doesn't mind the community's expectation that the foundation takes a leadership role in pulling the district through crises. But he said the pressure created by budget cuts at the federal and state levels can be frustrating.

"There comes a point where we're not raising money for programs that just make us better.... It's the foundation that's raising money for core educational programs," Shaw said.

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