It was a year ago when the Davis Schools Foundation led the way for this community to come together to save our schools. In a dramatic fundraising campaign, they did what many thought was impossible, they raised $1.7 which along with a better economic picture and some one-time monies, saved the district from steep cuts–up to 114 teaching jobs were saved. Now here we are again, despite the passage of Measure W to provide an addition $2.4 million in school support, we find ourselves facing a similar if less severe problem.
But even with the current level of cuts, the state is facing at least $8 billion in additional cuts and possibly $14 billion if the propositions do not pass (and the polls show them failing).
The Davis Schools Foundation has an Op-Ed in today’s Davis Enterprise.
“The program, service and staff cuts our school board is proposing represent a step backwards from our key values: closing the achievement gap, school safety and student supervision, college preparation, adequate counseling and class size reduction.”
As they eloquently put it, we as a community cannot change the economic times that we live, but there are things we can do to protect our education.
“We cannot change the economic times our district faces. But we can come together once again to protect the education of our children. They deserve more than what our state has approved to give them this year. Long term, many of us are working at the state level to fix our broken system of state financing for all vital public services. Right now, however, we can preserve and strengthen the educational services and programs offered students in Davis if we, as adults, agree to succeed together with shared sacrifice.”
However here is the kicker:
“It is imperative that those in our community charged with the responsibility of educating our children act now to protect them. The Davis Schools Foundation is ready and positioned to help. But the foundation finds itself stymied by the lack of an agreement among teachers, administrators, support staff and the Board of Education on a strategy for collectively providing a quality education to Davis school children. Until such an agreement is reached, the foundation cannot set appropriate fundraising goals and strategies.”
What do they mean there is a lack of agreement?
This seems less certain, but I believe this is the core of what we have been discussing for the past month or so.
In fact, I think the DSF in in their op-ed is not nearly broad enough in terms of the lack of agreement.
The first part we all know–the board of education and administrators believe there needs to be the willingness on the part of teachers to take some sort of paycut.
The teachers seem to believe there are other ways to balance the budget. I am not party to private talks, but to my knowledge they have never shown anyone the way–at least in a manner that is acceptable. For instance, the board and administration rejected a proposal that we do anything but a positive qualification.
Short of that, I have not seen any way to avoid layoffs without the teachers taking a paycut. I’m sorry that this suggestion has angered teachers in this community. I do not see the numbers adding up any other way. Believe me, I hate to see teachers take pay cuts, they are not paid nearly enough and their level of health benefits is frankly appalling. I got better health care as a graduate student at UCD than teachers are getting from DJUSD. That’s just shocking.
But there is also as I have pointed out the reality.
The DSF op-ed continues:
“Every day without an agreement is one more day without a clear set of district needs and priorities – one more day of uncertainty for pink-slipped district staff – and one more day for all of us to worry. Every day without an agreement is one less day for mobilizing families, friends and neighbors – and one less day for fundraising.”
“The community wants to help, and many have said they are willing to make sacrifices once again to invest in our children’s education and their future. In these tough economic times, contributions by community members will require even greater sacrifices.”
There are so open questions at this point. For instance, the Blue and White Foundation will be fundraising to raise money for the stadium repair. Many of course object to the district approving the stadium during these times. As I understand the financing issues, I do not have a problem with it from a fiscal standpoint, but do think given political realities it probably should have been put off until the summer.
Nevertheless, one issue of concern is what it will look like to the public if there is a fundraising drive from the Blue and White Foundation along side fundraising efforts from DSF. The stadium does have a very specific audience that they will cater to, but I think the bottom line is that there will inevitably some competition between DSF and B&W, and that could be problematic.
Given the fact that the state is facing possibly another $14 billion in budget cuts in June, I have backed off earlier claims to oppose fundraising by DSF for the purposes of saving jobs. But I also have to say, that it might not be enough, even if they raise $2 million to save jobs this time.
However, I also want to remain clear on this, such fundraising efforts will be far more effective if the teachers are willing to take a paycut.
There is further complication. Last year, at least up until the budget collapsed at the end of the year, the district took the money as a bridge to fill a year gap until they could pass the parcel tax.
There is now indication from the district that any fundraising effort by DSF would probably not result in fewer layoffs. This is undoubtedly some of the lack of agreement. The district is not going to use one-time monies to fill the budget gap this time because there is no plan for permanent funding increases. At best this would forestall layoffs. And on a three-year basis it would not enable the district to fix their structural deficit if they had to rely on one-time monies.
The bottom line here is that the finance issue a good degree more tricky than last year. It is not clear even if DSF raised $2 million in this horrible economic climate, if the district would roll the dice and pull back on the layoffs knowing that that money is only one-time and that it is unlikely the DSF could raise it on an on-going basis.
To me, DSF were heroes in our community last year and their efforts should be applaud. I both sympathize and understand their frustrations at being stymied. That said, the fiscal picture is simply very complicated. The district wants to deal with its structural deficit and that means that one-time monies are not going to fix this problem.
I join DSF in urging all of the stakeholders to come to an agreement on our future. I applaud their drive, will, and determination to bring us a better school district. But now we all have to learn the meaning of the word community and all have to come together with a shared sense of sacrifice. I am willing to do my part, but I await those in charge coming to the kind of agreement that will make all of this possible.
—David M. Greenwald reporting