Commentary: Options Exist If Supervisors Don’t Put Preschool Measure on the Ballot

Preschool
Preschool

Today may be decision day for the county Board of Supervisors on a half to quarter-cent sales tax measure that might fund a program to increase preschool access and affordability.  But the general tax requires four votes, and there is a growing belief that both Supervisors Matt Rexroad and Oscar Villegas will oppose the measure.

Ironically, Supervisor Villegas, who represents West Sacramento, may oppose the measure because West Sacramento has already run a successful pilot program for over a decade.

As the staff report notes, “Funding from the City of West Sacramento, First 5 CA, First 5 Yolo, and other contributors built a model program that, at full funding, included all three key components: quality support or enhancement, accessibility, and affordability.”

Staff adds, “By both scaling up the successful, 10-year UP For West Sacramento (Up4WS) pilot and expanding and enhancing the current First 5 IMPACT quality improvement program, the Yolo County Quality Preschool/Early Childhood Education Initiative will build on existing programs, both public and private, center-based and family settings, to create a network of improved quality programming, expanded capacity, and affordability in areas across the County.”

Staff writes, “Following the Up4WS pilot program, the Yolo County Preschool Initiative seeks to  improve quality and access across the County of Yolo, in every jurisdiction, as well as expanding and upgrading preschool and early learning among high-need and/or at-risk populations.”

Matt Rexroad has received heavy lobbying, apparently much of it from Davis, to support the program.  However, as he notes, this is not a universal preschool program and, in fact, it is not even close.

At most, with partial 25 percent and 50 precent scholarships, this would fund about 886 children countywide, and just 152 in Davis.  Ironically, Woodland may gain the most benefit from the program, as Davis has a much higher percentage overall of children currently in preschool and Woodland would see the benefit for 269 children.

However, Mr. Rexroad believes that, while this may be a good thing, “it is not the biggest need in Woodland right now.”

Matt Rexroad also questions whether county government, which is not an educational organization, is the proper venue to fund this initiative.  However, one problem with that argument is that the county actually funds a number of agencies that are autonomous in governance – for instance, the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department, Assessor’s Office, Elections Office, District Attorney’s Office, along with the County Department of Education, are all funded by the county but headed up by independently elected officials.

We have a strange system of governance, where elected officials at the county level rely on the Board of Supervisors for their funding.  Jesse Ortiz, the County Superintendent of Schools, thus lacks the legal mechanism for raising taxes to fund programs – other than going to the county.

So, while Mr. Rexroad is correct that the county government is not an educational organization, it’s also not a law enforcement organization but it funds the Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney’s Office.

Unless Mr. Rexroad has a last-minute change of heart, it appears that the this measure will lose, despite a 3-2 vote in its favor.

The county-wide program was only going to fund about $2.925 million in preschool programs, assisting under 1000 children.  Of that, only half a million would go to Davis to fund about 152 children, as stated above.  The program would be a starting point, but would need funding from other sources to really take off.  There is another $966,000 in the quarter-cent plan for Early childhood Education Improvement which is a countywide program.

So, what happens if the board does not fund this?

Davis has its own opportunities.  In Davis, about 71 percent of students already attend preschool, which is by far the highest number in the county.  However, the 29 percent that do not attend preschool in Davis closely mirrors the at-risk and Title One population.

One option that the district has is that, when they consider increasing the parcel tax, they use some of that money to fund their own preschool scholarship program along the lines of the West Sacramento model.

Right now the school board is considering either a $620, $750, or $960 parcel tax.  A $620 tax, which is considered to be at the renewal level to maintain current programs, would generate about $9.5 million for the district.  Increasing the parcel tax to $750 would generate another $2 million, and increasing it to $960 would generate an additional $5 million or so.

DJUSD could then take $1 million or $2 million and produce its own preschool program that would serve twice to four times the number of students that a countywide program would serve.

Speaking to several of the board members this week, there seems to be at least tentative and preliminary support for increasing preschool access.  Obviously, universal preschool would require both local and state funding to achieve.

This spring, there was a statewide push for the state to spend significantly more money on preschool and child care.  The plan pushed before the legislature would have required around $5 billion in tax money to implement.

Research has shown that, nationwide, more than two-thirds of high-income students ages three and four attend preschool, while less than 40 percent of low-income students do.  Research suggests high-income families send their children to preschool in far higher numbers because they can afford the costs.

Five billion, amazingly, is still not enough for universal programs, which would cost about $8 to $9 billion more per year than the state currently spends.

Those numbers put into perspective the modest efforts by the county that would only impact 886 children, but at least they represent a start and a move in the right direction.

—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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38 thoughts on “Commentary: Options Exist If Supervisors Don’t Put Preschool Measure on the Ballot”

  1. Barack Palin

    One option that the district has is that when they consider increasing the parcel tax, they use some of that money to fund their own preschool scholarship program

    Here we go, I thought if they went for $960 the excess was going to go for a rainy day fund?

    Like I stated the fund would be most likely dipped into and used for things other than keeping teachers on during a downturn.

    And once these new programs are initiated we’ll have yet another entity that we have to be taxed for in order to keep it funded.

    1. Tia Will

      BP

      Here we go, indeed. You were against the increased parcel tax regardless of the stated use, so why would it matter to you whether David ( not the board) suggests other options ?

      1. quielo

        Yes, was in a discussion on this issue yesterday with a couple of local real estate people who are also parents. They both felt senior opt-out was widespread.

          1. Don Shor

            WesC
            June 12, 2016 at 12:38 pm
            Per the 2015 Parcel Tax Oversight Report: for measure C, 1,241 senior exemptions were approved for March 16, 2012. For measure E, 1,552 senior exemptions were approved for November 2012. I think 1,500 households probably a pretty significant percentage of the total number of senior owner occupied households. If you assume a dual voting senior household and a 100% voting record this could be as many as 3,000 votes to gore someone else’s ox.

          2. David Greenwald Post author

            I’m requesting a list of senior exemptions. I think we can calculate the number of senior households.

        1. Misanthrop

          Davis is a great place to age in place since it is flat and property tax laws favor staying in a home for a long time. Since we haven’t built much new housing in a generation the age distribution of the residents of Davis has skewed markedly older so it should come as no surprise that there are large numbers of home owners who are eligible or use the senior exemption.

        2. Tia Will

          A purely informational question. Does anyone know the history behind why a “senior opt out” rather than a “financial means opt out” was put in place ?

  2. Tia Will

    Matt Rexroad also questions whether county government, which is not an educational organization, is the proper venue to fund this initiative”

    While there are legitimate arguments against the current limited proposal, I agree that the is not one of them. For me this comes very close to the “it’s not in my job description” category of excuse often heard when someone simply does not want to do something. It reminds me of the “fire fighting is not the primary mission of the university” argument used by a number of officials when they simply did not favor joint management”.

    If a need is not being met on the state level, is it not up to the lower levels of city and county government to step in to fill the gap, even with small steps as possible ?

  3. Misanthrop

    The kids in Rexroad’s district would get the most benefit from the program. I never thought of him as an ideologue style Republican. Grover Norquist or Grover from Seseme Street? I guess we will find out soon enough.

  4. Barack Palin

    Barack Palin 
    June 19, 2016 at 9:52 am
    Rainy day fund?  How long before they dip into that saying they need it for ‘whatever’  then all of a sudden we have another cost that needs to be perpetually funded?
    Report comment
    David Greenwald 
    June 19, 2016 at 10:24 am
    A parcel tax comes with a description as to what it can be spent on – so they wouldn’t simply be able to dip into that fund whenever they feel the need.

     Boy, that didn’t take long.  It looks like David and/or possibly the school board would already want to dip into these funds for other things than a rainy day and for something that would have to be perpetually funded.
     

      1. Barack Palin

        But a rainy day fund is why they originally were trying to justify asking for $960 and already we see how those funds can possibly be diverted.

         

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          The rainy day fund would not have used the full additional parcel tax, and that was just one idea that was thrown out (one that I happen to support).

        2. Barack Palin

          But the raniy day fund would be much smaller if a preschool voucher program was set up.  So yes it’s already being looked at to be dipped into.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            The rainy day fund is going to be whatever it is. I don’t think this would affect its size. I’m don’t really think the board will go for a funding for preschool, but it has been discussed and there is some support. If you don’t support a rainy day fund anyway, why are we having this discussion. Nothing is concrete, I’m just throwing out some ideas.

        3. Misanthrop

          Why would you support a rainy day fund? That is the stupidest idea ever proposed for a parcel tax especially since  California already has one. Ours would be held by the Department of Redundancy Department.

          $960 is off the table. It couldn’t get enough support in the polling. The question will be if the school board wants to risk asking for $700 or $750. If it was up to me I’d go for a $620 renewal but add a annual 1% cola for inflation. That would get them to around $675 in eight years. Its a safer bet on the electorate.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            If the economy goes down, we’ll either have to cut programs or pass another parcel tax.

        4. Barack Palin

          If you’re talking to me I don’t support a rainy day fund.

          Even though a chunk of that $620 was originally only supposed to be a temporary tax I could be persuaded to vote for your proposal, a $620 parcel tax with a 1% cola.

  5. SODA

    If Davis  funds independently this would be another example of a more affluent district raising money to provide more than the districts who do not have parents able to pony up.  I hope the county votes yes so all who qualify can benefit.

    1. The Pugilist

      True, but it would be an example of Davis supporting other districts through the Board of Sups, but Woodland and West Sacramento’s reps would be opposing it, so I’m not sure what else Davis can or should do.

  6. nameless

    I would be more inclined to spend the money on internet access for all students, rather than on preschool programs which IMO are of questionable success.  Students in some of the outlying areas do not have access to internet or have very limited access, which in this day and age is not good.  Both Aguiar-Curry and Don Saylor wrote about it in an op-ed in the Davis Enterprise (anyone find the pairing of these two curious in light of election results?).  See: http://www.davisenterprise.com/forum/opinion-columns/life-without-internet-in-yolo-county/

    1. wdf1

      nameless:  I would be more inclined to spend the money on internet access for all students, rather than on preschool programs which IMO are of questionable success. 

      Your comment from when this topic was last brought up:

      The problem with any of these statistics is causality.  Parents who are more desirous of the children doing well in school and in life are more likely to send their kids to pre-school, which will skew any statistical results.  There is a built in assumption that because these kids went to preschool is the reason they are doing better in school, which is not necessarily the case.

      And just so we are clear, I have 3 kids, all who went thru the public school system. I literally had to home school them on basics like reading and math, so I do not have a whole lot of faith in schools to do a good job educating our kids. I was also a teacher in the public school system, so I have been on both sides of the table. source

      I’ll address your skepticism of pre-school based on my original links, but first I have a question of skepticism about you, since you often show heavy skepticism of others in education.

      Given that you were a teacher in the public school system at one time, can you claim to have succeeded in educating your students?  Or was it really just some combination of causality of family aspirations (“more desirous of their children doing well in school”) and home support that made your students perform better?  Were some parents maybe questioning your effectiveness as a math teacher and helping them with perceived pedagogical deficiencies at school the way you did for your own kids?

    2. wdf1

      nameless:  I would be more inclined to spend the money on internet access for all students, rather than on preschool programs which IMO are of questionable success.

      and

      The problem with any of these statistics is causality.  Parents who are more desirous of the children doing well in school and in life are more likely to send their kids to pre-school, which will skew any statistical results.  There is a built in assumption that because these kids went to preschool is the reason they are doing better in school, which is not necessarily the case.

      If you read up on (or listen to the podcast of) the material of the Perry School Project, the original study involved an initial population of students from which some were randomly selected to participate in the preschool program.  The others were part of a control group that did not participate in the preschool program.  The benefits were measured against the control group.

      Please explain why your criticism of such a study overwhelmingly based on causality is solid as you describe it?  Why would such benefits be skewed if you have that kind of control group?

      1. Barack Palin

        Oh please, we’re being a bit over dramatic aren’t we?  That measure would’ve have done little for the children and certainly wasn’t worth the cost.  Give it a rest.

        1. hpierce

          Check the “ironic comment” button on your computer, BP… seems to be in the “off”/non-detect position… “no new nails”, get it?   Nothing is different between yesterday and today on this!

          Jeez!

          You might better raise your “drama” comment with the poster I responded to…

        2. Barack Palin

          That’s actually who it was directed at but I can see where you thought it was meant for you hpierce.  But come to think of it maybe the other commenter was being facetious too.  If so I apologize to both of you.

        3. hpierce

          Yeah… could well be that my “irony” button was stuck as well… dog keeps thinking she’s a 47 lb lap dog… hair sometimes gets into my keyboard… damn dog!  But, she’s a ‘pound puppy’, and a silly but wonderful dog , buddy, friend and pal… hates squirrels, tho’…

        4. davisite4

          Actually, I posted my comment before the vote was known, and so in that context it meant to suggest that by putting children in school earlier and earlier, we are killing childhood.

          We think that children are more “successful” with preschool, but what is success?  Are they healthy, happy, well-rounded?

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