My View: Teacher Lack of Support for Parcel Tax Perplexing

The numbers seem pretty clear, the teachers have been working hard for the last several months to rally the community to the idea that there is a compensation gap in the district.  That teachers are disadvantaged compared to other school districts, which puts strain on their finances and has led to concerns about teacher recruitment and retention.

While the district can and should support ways to cut existing costs, at the end of the day, bringing teacher compensation up to a level that is on par with neighboring districts is probably going to require an infusion of money from a parcel tax.

In the meantime, polling shows that the parcel tax is right on the bubble.  The level of polling support is somewhere between 59 and 70 percent, with the solid supporters sitting at a level that is just below the two-thirds threshold required for passage.

The pollsters see this as a challenge, but they believe “in the right environment, a parcel tax measure on the November 2018 ballot could be successful.”  But the right environment, as explained on Thursday, requires a robust campaign with all of the stakeholders on board and teachers and their vast numbers, many of whom came out in force on Thursday, to work to get the measure passed.

But instead, the message we are getting from teachers is skepticism about the parcel tax and indication that they may not support it.

Blair Howard, a past DTA president, delivered the message loud and clear on Thursday during public comment on the parcel tax analysis item.

He said that teachers regret the decision in 2016 not to press for pay increases at that time.  The feeling among teachers during a parcel tax campaign, he explained, is that “we need to be on our
best behavior and make no noise in order to pass it.”

Mr. Howard said, “We wasted an opportunity to go out to the community and ask them for what we are calling for now, supporting a parcel tax for teacher pay.  The result is that there is a significant number of DTA members that do not want to support the parcel tax, no matter what benefit it may bring to them or the district.”

As a result, he said, there is low support among DTA members for supporting the parcel tax.  He said this is “a result of strained trust in the district, which again is reflected in some of the polling numbers.”

In order for the DTA to support the parcel tax, it requires a full vote of the membership.

Blair Howard said that for people to get involved and knock on doors, “they need to be inspired.”

He said, “So as you consider this parcel tax, consider that for in order for it to get passed, it will need to inspire, it will need to do more than just kind of sort of keep up, and it will really need to meet the needs of the people who are here now because I’m not certain the perspective teacher who is in another community is going to come over to Davis and work on the passage of a parcel tax, so they can come to work in Davis.”

The Vanguard asked DTA President Dianna Huculak for clarification on this.  She explained, “As a body, the DTA representative council voted to explore a parcel tax as a way to generate new revenue,  to ensure that the district can attract and retain educators, to not only continue to provide the highest quality education for our students, but also promote more stable and sustainable school communities.

“DTA also recognizes that a parcel tax is one way to make significant strides in closing the existing wage gap, while also improving benefits for our members without impacting current practices and programs,” she explained.

The bottom line, she said, is “[a]fter years of the district not prioritizing teachers, there is some general skepticism about whether or not the parcel tax is the only way.  As with any endorsement, DTA will consider the impact and evaluate the final language of the parcel tax before voting to endorse it. “

That is not a no, but it also not a yes.  More importantly, it is not a commitment by DTA to do the work that will be necessary to pass a parcel tax that figures to be a heavier lift than usual.

Yes, parent groups can and will mobilize to support the parcel tax.  But unless the teachers are fully behind it, many in this community will be reluctant to either get involved or possibly support the parcel tax.

After all, they will reason, why should I tax myself to pay more money to the teachers, when they are not even fully behind this measure?

At this point, there is movement toward some sort of agreement between the DTA and the district on a compensation package.  The message delivered by Ms. Huculak on Thursday was clear: “Let’s settle now.”

But that message was a complicated one as she called for “fair increases for ALL of our members.”  She said, “The compensation gap is profound at all levels of the salary schedule. It impacts not just beginning teachers, but also those teachers who have dedicated their professional lives to working in this district.  You have our offer, you should accept it, and accept it now.”

However, without a funding mechanism, the district pay for compensation increases with one-time money, but they cannot promise to keep those pay increases into the future without finding new revenue.

That makes the push from DTA all the more baffling.  They want their pay increase, but they seem reluctant to do their part to make sure the district can responsibly pay for it.

The response I am starting to hear from those around the district is that if the teachers do not want a parcel tax and are not willing to help its passage, perhaps the district needs to look into other funding for the district, such as on facilities.

To be clear, that is not my preference.  My preference is to make sure that the teachers of this district are fairly compensated for their work, but money does not grow on trees and the district doesn’t get to print their own money either.

I get the distrust and hurt feelings, but the reasonable course of action is to work together to solve problems.

—David M. Greenwald reporting



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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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25 thoughts on “My View: Teacher Lack of Support for Parcel Tax Perplexing”

  1. Jim Frame

    The compensation gap is profound at all levels of the salary schedule. It impacts not just beginning teachers, but also those teachers who have dedicated their professional lives to working in this district.

    It’s not clear to me, after reading this article as well as yesterday’s, what DJUSD is offering and why it’s not acceptable to DTA.  Did the District put some sort of progressive salary increase proposal on the table, such that lower-rung teachers get a larger salary increase than those higher up?

     

     

    1. Ken A

      Reading the letter from the teacher yesterday it is pretty clear the district was hoping to give the young underpaid teachers more to attract new talent and give the teachers at the top of the pay scale (who already make more than almost every teacher in the region) a smaller raises.

      1. David Greenwald Post author

        There is more to it than that, but you’re on the right track. The teachers at the bottom are more disadvantaged than the teachers who are more experienced.

      2. Steve Westhoff

        “teachers at the top of the pay scale (who already make more than almost every teacher in the region)”

        Is this true?  I was under the impression the entire DJUSD payscale was relatively low for this region.

      3. David Greenwald

        No it is not true that teachers at the top of the scale make more than everyone else in the region.  But the gap is closer at the top (maybe 3 percent less than average as compared to 7 to 10 percent less at the bottom).

        1. Ken A

          I didn’t say that the top of the pay scale in Davis is higher than other “top of the pay scale  pay” I said that teachers in Davis that  are “at the top of the pay scale” make more than “almost every teacher in the region” (most who have been teaching or less than 15 years and are not making a ton of money).

          Unless David wants to post something showing that most teachers in the region make more than the highest paid (actual “top” of the scale) teachers in Davis he should clarify that what I said is true (I didn’t say “everyone” I said “almost everyone” knowing that schools in areas where no one wants to work attracts teachers with “hazard pay”. 

          As a rule of thumb across the country the teachers get paid more in schools where large numbers of kids parents are in prison and paid less in schools where large numbers of kids parents have PhDs (and teachers in schools with a large number of kids parents in prison that “also” have metal detectors are usually some of the highest paid teachers)..

        2. Jeff M

          As a rule of thumb across the country the teachers get paid more in schools where large numbers of kids parents are in prison and paid less in schools where large numbers of kids parents have PhDs (and teachers in schools with a large number of kids parents in prison that “also” have metal detectors are usually some of the highest paid teachers)

          The way it should be.

          The other way it should be is that the best teachers make more than the average teachers that make more than the worst teachers.

           

        3. Mark West

          “The other way it should be is that the best teachers make more than the average teachers that make more than the worst teachers.”

          Yes

  2. Tia Will

    I get the distrust and hurt feelings, but the reasonable course of action is to work together to solve problems.”

    This sentiment I would apply to all sectors of our community with regard to all issues.

  3. Jeff M

    The teachers union is falling back on their old appeal canard… that teachers are over-worked, under-paid public-servant heroes doing the most important job on the planet.

    I tend to only agree with the last point.

    And it appears there are more voters today agreeing with me.

    If the teachers want better pay, then they need to change their approach.  Instead of putting up a “unfairly-treated-victim-that-if-not-given-more-money-it -will-hurt-the-kids” card, they should come to the table with a plan for improving the district’s education service and outcomes and ask for the help needed to fund the improvements.

    1. David Greenwald

      I think teachers are substantially underpaid in general compared to the work they do and their level of education.  I think there is a residual gender at work here which not only explains the low pay, but also the subpar benefits as compared to for example, the city of Davis or even state workers.

      1. Jeff M

        You are comparing them to other government workers that are grossly over-paid in consideration of their total compensation (including the present value of their retirement benefits).

        Teachers in general are not underpaid.  Davis teachers in general are not underpaid.

        However, the really good teachers are underpaid.

      2. Ken A

        I’m wondering if David would be in favor of “affirmative action” so we could reduce the number of white females and increase the numbers of men and people of color teaching in California?

  4. Howard P

    One of the problems may be the reality of timing…  the teachers want the increased compensation NOW… ie. 2018-2019 FY… a parcel tax approved in November would not generate revenues until FY  2019-2020…

    The letter from the DTA present called for the District to accept DTA’s terms, and settle NOW.  Not spring of 2019…

    Another potential problem…  I’ve heard that the Classified employees have a “me too” clause, so it wouldn’t be just teachers whose boats would float… so it’s not a “parcel tax for teachers compensation…

  5. Steve Westhoff

    I also heard that parcel taxes are not a preferred source of pay raises because they are temporary.  I’m curious whether any of the past or present parcel taxes translated to better teacher pay.  As a casual observer, it looks like they’ve gone towards special programs.

    1. H Jackson

      A few comments.

      “Special programs” is a fuzzy term — any and all program can be defined as special.

      Past school parcel taxes have been program-defined.  This potential measure doesn’t appear that it will fund specific programs.

      The current school parcel tax (and maybe the past couple before) have had an inflator that could be used to raise the school parcel tax assessment annually, according to an established rate of inflation.  It was the school board’s discretion as to whether to raise the rate.  For the past few years the school board has decided not to raise the rate using the inflator.  The DTA appeared to make no comment on the issue in open meeting.  But the inflator rate could have been used as a mechanism to provided higher compensation to the teachers, at least for those funded by the school parcel tax.  Personally, I think DTA just overlooked it, didn’t realize that it was there.

      1. Howard P

        Well, and “programs” inherently have employee compensation into them… and the ‘inflator” works on that, as well…

        It isn’t ‘rocket science’, but “accounting science” definitely plays a role…something about figures don’t lie, but…

    2. Howard P

      Watch the streaming video of Thursday meeting… one of the board members allowed as how the reality is they can “move money around”… so, parcel taxes have “freed up” money already funding programs, freeing up money for things like employee compensation…

      It will be interesting to see exactly how the measure is written… EXACTLY… will the new revenue go 100% to additional TEACHER compensation (beyond what is already ‘dedicated’ to that purpose in the current budget, plus a proportional share of future increased funding from the State)… or will it be also used for increases to compensation for Classified and/or Administration employees… stay tuned…

  6. Howard P

    The other way it should be is that the best teachers make more than the average teachers that make more than the worst teachers.

    Like that’s ever going with happen, with DTA, CTA, and the ‘guild system’ (aka “union” system) they protect… where tenure rules over competence, and in times of financial strife it’s last in, first out, regardless of competency/effectiveness…

    Saying “it is all about the kids” is somewhat disingenuous, from a group of folk, who by protecting their own members, care little if newer/talented teacher gets thrown under the bus when a reduction in force is necessary, and, unless a mediocre or poor teacher actually commits a crime, if they have enough tenure, they are “defended” by the union… including by resisting any objective measure of teaching efficacy for any given teacher…

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