Commentary: Disappointing Failure to Provide Boost to Preschool Programs

Preschool
Preschool

In the end, not only did the preschool tax fall short of the four votes needed to put it on the ballot, it fell short of even a majority, as Supervisors Oscar Villegas and Duane Chamberlain, who had supported staff drawing up ballot language two weeks before, voted against putting the measure on the ballot.

The official reason expressed by Supervisor Oscar Villegas was concerns about having the tax increase on the same ballot as tax measures in West Sacramento and Woodland.  Davis apparently has no such concerns, as the tax measure would have been concurrent with a sizable parcel tax.

Nevertheless, it is interesting that Supervisors Don Saylor and Jim Provenza of Davis would be the two strongest advocates, as Davis, at least by the numbers, would have benefited least from the proposal.

But by far the most disappointing result is the vote of Oscar Villegas, whose wife runs the non-profit Yolo County Children’s Alliance. The 501(c)(3) was established in 2002 by a resolution of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors as a way of “addressing a number of community concerns that impact children and their families such as access to quality pediatric health care, childhood obesity, and child neglect and abuse.”

Moreover, West Sacramento has for the last decade benefited from a pilot program called Universal Preschool for West Sacramento – a preschool program that the countywide program has been modeled after.  That program has received about $7.4 million from First 5 Yolo over the last decade.

While the program has been successful, with a January 2016 evaluation report showing that those who attended the preschool program were more ready for kindergarten compared to their peers who did not, the fact that West Sacramento played a key role in blocking a similar countywide program is troubling.

It is more troubling that supervisors in Woodland and West Sacramento, where large numbers of students do not attend preschool, would be blocking a program to at least start launching a countywide program – even if the funding available from this tax would have been far short of what is needed.

While Davis has a large student population already attending preschool – 71 percent by one measure – drilling down into that figure reveals reasons to attempt to improve and expand coverage.  For one thing, the 29 percent who do not attend preschool strongly mirrors the 25 percent Title One students in the district.

For another, the achievement gap in Davis has been stronger and more pervasive than in other communities.  Students who start out at a disadvantage, with a lag in the readiness for kindergarten, in many cases may not catch up.

The emerging research on this is somewhat inconclusive and even contradictory, with a recent study of Head Start students finding that differences between low income students who attended Head Start and those who did not disappeared by the third grade.  But other studies that went beyond looking at scores on standardized tests found that, in the long term, those who attend preschool programs do better than those who do not.

With county funding off the table until at least 2018, the local school district has its own options.  Next week the school board has two special meetings that go a long way toward deciding the appropriate amount of the next parcel tax.

The board could go with essentially a “status quo” parcel tax of $620.  While that amount is somewhat higher than the current tax, the increased amount will fund the same level of programming, due to inflation and also a decrease in funding due to a lawsuit settlement.

Or the board could opt for higher levels at $750 per year or $960.  In addition to the amount of the parcel tax, the board would need to figure out what to spend the money on.  One suggestion put forward by Alan Fernandes has been to set aside some amount for a rainy day fund that could be used to augment the current expenditures in the case an economic downturn.

Earlier this week we suggested that some amount of that parcel tax could be used to fund a program for Davis students to attend preschool.  There seems some support from some of the board members on that.

In addition to parcel tax money, Davis should look toward applying to First 5 to see if they can get money like West Sacramento did, to go to a preschool program.

However, these are just speculative.

The first question that the board has to ask is what number to ask the community for.  Polling suggests that, even at $960, there are some 61 percent in the community inclined to support a parcel tax.  They would have to get two-thirds support to implement the tax.  While some have shied away from that, some believe there is strong support for our schools in the community and if the board made the ask and laid out the need, the community will back it.

Given that the current parcel tax measures do not expire until June 30, 2017, the board has time to come back in March and pass a $620 parcel tax if this one fails – but I do not expect that to be necessary.

The vote by the Board of Supervisors suggests we cannot count on the county to fund these programs and that means we need to step up to help the less fortunate kids in this district get off to a good start and, hopefully by doing so, we can close the achievement gap.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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37 thoughts on “Commentary: Disappointing Failure to Provide Boost to Preschool Programs”

  1. Barack Palin

    The Board of Supervisors made the right move.  The tax would’ve done little towards funding preschool and if anything would’ve created another program that would need much more funding down the road.

    I don’t think DJUSD should be taking this on either.  The public is getting wary of taxes and to try and create new programs now by asking already overtaxed homeowners to fund it should be a non-starter.  We also have a roads parcel tax coming so I feel the board should be happy going for status quo and trying to renew the $620 which in itself is also a bump up for taxpayers.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      “The public is getting wary of taxes”

      That may be your opinion, but I have seen a lot of polls locally and no there is no basis for that opinion in those polls.

      Also point out that given your wife’s profession, you may not be a disinterested party here.

      1. Barack Palin

        I always wonder how those polls were conducted.  I’ve taken polls here in Davis where the pollster leads you in a direction through carefully crafted questions.  I have my suspicions as to their accuracy when a voter actually casts their vote.  Also remember there’s a lot of parents up in arms over the GATE and AIM controversy who are going to vote against any parcel tax and many others who haven’t forgot the Petersen fiasco.

         

        1. wdf1

          I am suspecting that younger voters maybe increasingly more difficult to poll in representative samples because younger voters have different habits using their phones than do older voters.  Obama’s performance in the 2012 election seemed to surprise some pundits, but Bernie Sanders in 2016 seemed to regularly defy polling predictions.

    2. wdf1

      BP:  Do you think low SES kids who don’t have quality preschool, presumably like what your wife’s outfit offers, end up at a disadvantage when they enter kindergarten?

  2. The Pugilist

    West Sac is looking really shady here, they’ve been getting money from the county for years for their preschool program and now block a countywide program.  First 5 should immediately cut funding here and either put it toward a countywide program or Davis.

  3. nameless

    “It is more troubling that supervisors in Woodland and West Sacramento, where large numbers of students do not attend preschool, would be blocking a program to at least start launching a countywide program – even if the funding available from this tax would have been far short of what is needed.”

    That is the first reason this idea never got off the ground with the supervisors – the tax would have only funded a pilot program, requiring considerably more money to fund a full program – money the county does not have and is unlikely to get from overburdened taxpayers.  We may be facing another recession with the most recent poor jobs numbers and the Brexit vote that just came down.

    “The emerging research on this is somewhat inconclusive and even contradictory, with a recent study of Head Start students finding that differences between low income students who attended Head Start and those who did not disappeared by the third grade.  But other studies that went beyond looking at scores on standardized tests found that, in the long term, those who attend preschool programs do better than those who do not.”

    This is the second reason there was not support for a pre-school program – there is no definitive agreement that pre-school is of any particular benefit.
     
    “Given that the current parcel tax measures do not expire until June 30, 2017, the board has time to come back in March and pass a $620 parcel tax if this one fails – but I do not expect that to be necessary.”

    I think you underestimate how tax weary voters are.  I have no problem putting a $960 parcel tax on the ballot and watch it fail… I certainly will not vote for it.

    1. The Pugilist

      “I think you underestimate how tax weary voters are.  I have no problem putting a $960 parcel tax on the ballot and watch it fail… I certainly will not vote for it.”

      You guys keep saying this – but what’s your evidence?  It’s not showing up on polling and not showing up on results.

  4. Barack Palin

    I have no problem putting a $960 parcel tax on the ballot and watch it fail… I certainly will not vote for it.

    That’s what I’ve been saying.

    Are Davis homeowners who are looking at most likely a several hundred dollar road parcel tax going to want to put an extra $340 over and above the $620 needed in order to fund a school parcel tax that will create new programs that will require more and more funding over the years?

      1. Barack Palin

        When’s the last time Davis was asked to pass a tax that’s going to be a minimum of $620 to possibly $960 for schools plus a road tax in the $100’s?

        Good luck with that.

      2. Barack Palin

        It boggles the mind that homeowners are being asked to pay through the nose for schools and roads and at the same time we have people advocating for starting yet new programs that will be a drain on taxpayers.

        1. Tia Will

          BP

          It boggles the mind that homeowners are being asked to pay…..”

          What boggles my mind is your seeming unwillingness to pay for the basics that support our society. Our infrastructure, our public schools, our libraries all were provided for us by the generation that came before. Unless you live outside the city, or never use the streets, or had nothing to do with the public schools ( either your parents, yourself, or your children) then you are effectively refusing to pay for what others provided for you.

          The consequence of this kind of failure to see the need to pay our own way just as previous generations did, coming from folks would likely claim that they believe in personal responsibility is simply mind boggling to me. If we as a group, are not willing to pay for societal needs, which of you who are so “tax weary” are going to step up to fund these needs yourself ?

        2. Barack Palin

          I like Tia Will how you just took a portion of my sentence in order for you to be able to vent your diatribe.

          I’ve stated I’m willing to pay the $620 school parcel tax and pay for our roads and other such services but I don’t think we should be be starting new programs at this time that will create an even bigger burden for taxpayers.  The point is I’m willing to pay for the basics of society but not all these fringe new programs that are putting many taxpayers in a corner.  At some point we have to realise that enough is enough.

          I know that’s hard for you to comprehend because you make a good salary and never met a tax you didn’t like.

        3. quielo

          Tia Will:  I am not reflexively against spending money on “societal needs” however we need to be careful in building infrastructure around the latest fad. Despite some peoples comments on this thread I believe the value of pre-K is unproven and there are numerous studies to indicate that it’s better to delay the cognitive and have more unstructured play. Particularly if you weigh the test results against the obesity prevalent in this population. IMHO the core problem is using television as a babysitter which leads to both poor reading/language and obesity. If you accept TV as the core problem then the solution is the cheapest way to get kids to run around.

        4. wdf1

          quielo:  IMHO the core problem is using television as a babysitter which leads to both poor reading/language and obesity. If you accept TV as the core problem then the solution is the cheapest way to get kids to run around.

          You can use that argument to criticize the value of kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, etc.  That parents should take responsibility for personally educating their kids at home and not park them in front of a TV and maybe not rely on the “public trough” to provide childcare at ages 5-18.

          That the reason students who attend public school in general succeed over those who don’t is that those who don’t are probably sitting at home vegging in front of a TV (or a computer or smart phone screen) instead of moving around and being physically/socially/mentally active.

        1. Barack Palin

          What’s the highest sum ever asked for on a parcel tax measure?  I’ll bet it’s nowhere close to what we’re going to be asked to vote for in Nov.

        2. Barack Palin

          I’m pretty sure this will be by far the highest local parcel tax ever put on a ballot in Davis.  IMO even just the $620 it’s going to be a stretch.

  5. wdf1

    Vanguard:  Moreover, West Sacramento has for the last decade benefited from a pilot program called Universal Preschool for West Sacramento – a preschool program that the countywide program has been modeled after.  That program has received about $7.4 million from First 5 Yolo over the last decade.

    While the program has been successful, with a January 2016 evaluation report showing that those who attended the preschool program were more ready for kindergarten compared to their peers who did not, the fact that West Sacramento played a key role in blocking a similar countywide program is troubling.

    West Sacramento’s program, as I understand it, is a partnership with the city government, which is kicking in funding.  I don’t know the details, but I think it was likely that the proposed county program couldn’t add very much to what West Sac already has.  I think also that the City of West Sacramento is proposing a/some tax issue(s) on the November ballot, so may have pressured Villegas to vote no.

    In Davis, I think a program similar to what West Sacramento proposed (more accessible preschool to lower income families) is one thing that Davis voters would support and pass.  I don’t think it could come from the school district any time soon.  I don’t see the district as being ready or prepared to include it as part of the school parcel tax funding in November.

      1. wdf1

        TP:  Why couldn’t the district get the funding this fall and then create a program?

        The Davis school board makes final votes on the proposed school parcel tax this week, and then it goes to the county.  The district staff is doing no planning (that I know of) to explain what could be funded in the way of preschool in Davis using district resources.

        The school board can choose to do whatever it wants to do, but if they vote to increase the school parcel tax in order to fund more accessible preschool, then I don’t think they have enough detail at this time to explain to the voters what that program would look like, how many students would be provided for, where it would be run, etc.  I think it would be a bit of a shot in the dark.

        If this was a priority interest for the school board, then better to have asked district staff to come up with a proposal back in January.  Being able to go to voters with more specificity is only a good thing, IMO.  Lacking it can be a liability.

      2. quielo

        Spending large amounts of money on a program with no proven benefit would not go over well with the parents. I believe, though cannot demonstrate, that parents of children who would qualify are less like to vote and less likely to be activist. A big part of life is just showing up.

        1. wdf1

          quielo:  …a program with no proven benefit…

          I disagree with you there.  Research shows something positive about good preschool programs.  Starting here, and at least another dozen links.

          quielo:  I believe, though cannot demonstrate, that parents of children who would qualify are less like to vote and less likely to be activist.   A big part of life is just showing up.

          Meaning what?  That they shouldn’t be entitled to the program because their parents aren’t appropriately active?

  6. Marina Kalugin

    I support making preschool available to children, and if the parents cannot afford it, that they should be helped out.

    I also do not agree with yet another tax levy to make that happen.

    Aren’t there nonprofits in the area, like First 5, which could pick up the pieces?

    First 5 is still around, correct?   They were very vocal in the support for poisoning young children in the area not that many months ago or is it now a year or so….you know………ie: on the pro-fluoride side.

    There are excellent preschools in Davis, and couldn’t the children who need a boost, and whose parents do not have the family income to support them in preschool able to obtain scholarships to those preschools?

    Granted, it has been more than 2 decades since my sons were in preschool, and as a single mother it was a struggle to send my sons, but they were highly advanced and needed the “extra boost”.    I was too proud to ask for any scholarships, so instead I volunteered to offset the cost of the preschool experience.   Many of us did back in the day…

    Is that not still an option?   What am I missing?

     

     

     

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      “Aren’t there nonprofits in the area, like First 5, which could pick up the pieces?”

      Convinces me you didn’t read the article at all – First 5 extensively discussed.

  7. hpierce

    People going for the higher school parcel tax will likely kill the City Parcel tax, in any meaningful amount.  The city has shown a consistent bent to let DJUSD go to the food bowl first, then look for any left over scraps for City use [if any].

  8. Tia Will

    BP

    I know that’s hard for you to comprehend because you make a good salary and never met a tax you didn’t like.”

    Absolutely not true.

    First, I believed in the necessity of taxes long before I made any real salary, as far back as when I was picking fruit and babysitting to raise money for college.

    Secondly, I have met many taxes I don’t like. I don’t like paying taxes to support what I see as ridiculously long and counter productive prison sentences. I don’t like paying taxes to support wars I feel are immoral. I deeply resent paying taxes that help to pay the salaries of those who use excessive force whether in the form of pepper spray, or any other form of excessive force ( kicking, choking, strangle holds, excessive use of a club) all of which have been caught on tape. Never the less, I recognize that taxes are the price that we pay for the advantages of our society. What I do strongly believe in is the use of our taxes to help those who are less economically blessed especially when those happen to be children who are most certainly not responsible for any poor choices made by their parents.

  9. Tia Will

    quielo

    I think that you have fallen into a common trap of wanting to identify a single problem as the culprit implying that there is a single, simple solution . In the case of your recent post, television. While I fully agree that television ( or other screens) are culprits in educational deficits, I think that a look at educational gap over time would show that children from economically or educationally deprived backgrounds had a significant disadvantage compared to their higher socioeconomically placed peers long before the television became used as a babysitter…..or even existed for that matter.

    1. quielo

      Hi Tia,

      I don’t big or small screen watching as a problem, it’s a symptom of a range of problems. However while the evidence for early literacy education is ambiguous the evidence for the hazard of childhood obesity is overwhelming.

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