The state of IUSD is strong, but funding challenges remain
IUSD remains one of the fastest-growing and highest-performing school districts in the nation. “There should be no ceiling on what we and our students can achieve,” Walker told the crowd, noting that IUSD is preparing students for a world where “70 percent of the jobs [current students may have] have not been created yet.”
He said that IUSD is preparing students to be game changers and innovators who have the skills and abilities to be resilient, to see the interconnectedness between disciplines, be collaborative, embrace a growth mindset, be intellectual risk takers, critically evaluate content, and be effective communicators in our increasingly diverse world.
Walker explained how IUSD with all its accolades faces the challenge of being one of the lowest-funded districts in the U.S. IUSD’s per-pupil funding is $4,300 less than the national average and $1,600 per-student less than the state average. This funding gap costs the district an astonishing $150 million per year compared to comparable national unified school districts and $54 million per year compared to California unified school districts.
Walker acknowledged the key contributions of IUSD partners in filling the funding gap and enhancing district programs, including the City of Irvine, Irvine Public Schools Foundation, PTA, FivePoint, and Irvine Company.
He cited the performance of IUSD teachers, staff and administrators of meeting the funding challenges and excelling in support of students: “We are surrounded by committed, hardworking and bright people who take tremendous ownership and responsibility, which makes a difference in our student’s lives,” he said.
Other topics in the multi-media presentation included a look at new schools in the district built in the past five years, as well as upgrades to older schools through Measure E funds. A priority of the Board of Education is to provide educational equity in the district to provide equal access to state-of-the-art amenities found in the newest schools, including science, design and innovation labs, Internet connectivity, flexible seating to accommodate different ways of learning, music rooms, and other improvements.
Technology improvements are key, also. Over the last five years, IUSD has increased the number of Chromebooks from 7,500 to more than 34,000, enabling many classrooms to have one Chromebook for each student. This 1:1 model gives students access to individualized curriculum, learning activities, and online resources, which are personalized to meet each student’s individual needs. Walker also discussed robotics, 3D printers and other tools that are helping teachers transform how students learn.
In conclusion, Walker said “I have no doubt that students will continue to set the bar and pace for the nation and state, you will continue to be a huge part of our success, and IUSD will continue to fulfill its promise of educational excellence and to continue our unprecedented success.”