DEVASTATING DJUSD Budget: As Bad As It Ever Was

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james_hammondRevised Budget Proposes 88 position Cuts, 30 student class size, 68 teacher layoffs

Everyone knew this was coming, with the letter from Superintendent James Hammond, bad news was definitely coming.  The only question would be how bad it was.  We now know the answer as we look at the recommended budget plan.  It is worse than we could have imagined.  The impact will be devastating.

Wrote Dr. Hammond in a letter to parents at the time:

“That is not the end of the bad news.  On January 8, Governor Schwarzenegger released his proposed budget plan for 2010-11.  If these proposals are adopted, preliminary estimates indicate that DJUSD revenue will be cut another $2 million, widening our budget gap to $5.7 million in 2010-11.  Our budget plan must incorporate these proposals, so I will move to identify additional cuts in this amount as well.

It’s important to remember that the Governor’s budget plan contained little good news for any sector.  While we can hope that schools will see some relief as these proposals move through the legislative process, we understand that would be at the cost of other important programs and services.”

Now we for the first time see how much the additional budget gap will impact the schools.  It will devastate them.

The current proposal will see an increase in class size up 30 to 1 for K-3, 32 to 1 for 4-6.  It will see the reduction of 30 teaching position at the elementary school level, 68 overall.  And for good measure 20 classified staff cuts for a total of 88 position cuts district wide.

2010-11_Budget

Dr. Hammond laid out the crux of the problem in his letter:

“As you may know, in October, in response to decreased funding from the state, I recommended that the Board of Education reduce 2010-11 expenditures by $3.5 million.  Due to additional cuts imposed by the State, this deficit grew to $3.7 million by the time we submitted our 1st Interim budget in mid-December.  In addition to identifying $2.5 million in program cuts and spending of reserves, I made the difficult recommendation to ask our employees to consider granting $1 million in salary concessions (a 2.5% salary reduction) in exchange for furlough days. 

Following a poll of their membership, the Davis Teachers Association recently indicated that they do not wish to negotiate concessions at this time.  With more information about our district’s growing deficit coming forward in the weeks ahead, my hope is that the Davis Teachers Association will give this request consideration at a later time (before layoffs notices are administered.) 

Though we will continue discussion in hopes of reaching agreement, I am obligated at this time to identify $1 million more in cuts for the Board’s consideration.  Unfortunately, this will mean additional layoffs and fewer educational services for students.”

According to the staff report, the proposed state budget reduces the district’s revenue by $1.9 million.  In summary, these reductions include:

1. Pass through of a .38% negative COLA, a reduction of $24/ADA, a $200,000 reduction;
2. An ongoing revenue limit adjustment $201 per ADA, $1.6 million reduction
3. Negative COLA reduction for categoricals and special education, a $100,000 reduction.

These cuts will increase the budget deficit from $3.7 million at the first interim budget in October to $5.6 million.  Given the fact that the district has already engaged in cuts three previous times almost all of the cuts will be in the form of staff reduction.

The impact is going to be dramatic and devastating.  Class sizes will rise dramatically and programs will be cut to the bone.

As a result, the superintendent will recommend to the Board of Education four areas of programmatic focus that can serve has district priorities for the Davis Schools Foundation as they continue their fundraising campaign on behalf of DJUSD.  Fundraising for these areas will mitigate the proposed cuts to:

• Class Size Reduction (CSR) K-3 and 9-10
• 7-12 Secondary Core Programs (Math, Science, English and Social Studies)
• Secondary Counseling
• School Safety

Commentary

I hate to keep harping on this point, but in addition to the Davis Schools Foundation, there is someone else who can save us at this point and that is the teachers themselves.

As we reported previously, the Superintendent had asked teachers to consider $1 million in concessions as a means to close the original budget deficit.  That would have amounted to a 2.5% reduction of pay.

That would have saved 16 employees from being laid off.

Said DTA President Ingrid Salim at the time:

“We are split almost right down the middle on the idea of employee concessions.  Because of that, we probably would not have enough votes to ratify a contract change, and truly do not want to introduce the kind of fragmentation that would result if a slight majority voted in a change of such magnitude and wide effect.  However, I hope to revisit the issue in a few months, after some articulated uncertainties have been visited.”

They better revisit this fast because it is already too late to merely take a $1 million concession.  We now need something more from the teachers.  We could cut the number of teacher layoffs nearly in half if they take the same 5% pay cut that state workers have taken and county workers have taken.  That alone would save 32 teaching positions, assuming that everything is roughly equal in terms of budget impact.

I don’t want to pretend that won’t hurt, but losing 68 teachers just cannot happen and it doesn’t have to.  With those concessions the public will undoubtedly rally once again behind the schools and the Davis Schools Foundation may be able to close the rest of the gap to save the bulk of the teaching jobs.

Without it, we are looking at cuts on a level that we have not seen.  Do we really want our young students, kindergarteners to be in classes of 30 students again?  Haven’t we moved past that.

It’s time to act.  The teachers are the only ones now that can save us.

And if they act to sacrifice, I will personally lead to the way when this over to see that teachers are rewarded for their noble sacrifice.  I do believe that teachers are underpaid for the importance of the work they do.  I think they should be paid on par with the highly paid city employees.  I think they should get the good benefits that our city employees get and we can fight that fight in a few years when we are well into recovery.  But right now everyone has to sacrifice and the teachers need to stop waffling and lead the way.

—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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64 thoughts on “DEVASTATING DJUSD Budget: As Bad As It Ever Was”

  1. Neutral

    You’ve made your point. But that doesn’t prevent DTA from negotiating based on *actual* – not estimated – revenues per the May Revise and/or budget passing. I think that’s all the other half wants: fairness.

  2. wdf1

    I think that’s all the other half wants: fairness.

    Fair enough. It’s hard to imagine the May revise will improve. It didn’t last year. The Governor’s budget also assumes several billion in aid from the federal government, too, and it’s not clear that will materialize.

  3. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]The teachers are the only ones now that can save us.[/i]

    What happened to the argument that you endorsed in the case of UC? Shouldn’t the guy at the top should show leadership by announcing a voluntary 20% pay cut?

    [i]…the Davis Schools Foundation may be able to close the rest of the gap to save the bulk of the teaching jobs.[/i]

    Now is an interesting time to call on the Davis Schools Foundation, because they have had to share donation space with the Blue and White Foundation. You were saying that the stadium and teachers’ salaries don’t come from the same pots of money, but that may not be completely true.

  4. David M. Greenwald

    What happened to the argument that you endorsed in the case of UC? Shouldn’t the guy at the top should show leadership by announcing a voluntary 20% pay cut?

    They already did make that offer. Last year they offered to double whatever cut the rank and file took, and the rank and file took nothing, but they still took a cut, WDF could tell how much. I’m sure the same offer will stand this year as well.

    Now is an interesting time to call on the Davis Schools Foundation, because they have had to share donation space with the Blue and White Foundation. You were saying that the stadium and teachers’ salaries don’t come from the same pots of money, but that may not be completely true.

    This came up last year as well, but for the most part the donor pools are not the same, at least according to both groups.

  5. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]I’m sure the same offer will stand this year as well.[/i]

    But I’m not talking about “offers”.

    When it was UC, you didn’t define leadership as merely offering to match the pay cut of the rank and file. What you said was, “I probably would have started out by taking a 50% pay cut just to make the real point about shared sacrifice and then asked all of the top executive to follow suit.”

    So what happened to that standard? Shouldn’t Hammond [b]start out[/b] by taking a 20% pay cut (I won’t suggest 50%) to make the real point about shared sacrifice, and [b]then[/b] turn to the rank and file?

    As for last year, you’re usually quite on top of the figures; relegating this figure to a commenter is kind-of weak.

    [i]This came up last year as well, but for the most part the donor pools are not the same, at least according to both groups.[/i]

    What are they saying here? That people who give to Blue and White wouldn’t have given a dime to DSF anyway? How many people Davis are that enthusiastic about the stadium, but couldn’t care less about layoffs?

    If instead they are saying that once a family gives to one of these foundations, they aren’t likely give to the other one, then they are putting a good face on the worst outcome.

    Maybe Blue and White should acknowledge that education is more important than entertainment, and draw on its supposedly separate donor pool to help avoid layoffs too.

  6. David M. Greenwald

    You miss my point–he already has taken a paycut last year and my guess is he’ll take another one this year. (He also makes less than half the salary of the people in UC I was calling on to take pay cuts).

  7. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]He already has taken a paycut last year and my guess is he’ll take another one this year.[/i]

    This is a strange kind of certitude, given that DTA has already had a vote on pay cuts. Did Hammond make such an offer to them in secret?

    [i]He also makes less than half the salary of the people in UC I was calling on to take pay cuts[/i]

    Now wait a minute. Leadership is leadership. Hammond still makes a lot more than the people that you are calling on to take pay cuts. If Hammond makes less than half of a few UC executives, they don’t even make a tenth as much as some of your baseball heroes. What kind of leadership is it to point to someone else who gets paid more out of an entirely different budget?

  8. David M. Greenwald

    Look Greg, you asked a question, I answered it. The reason I’m not on Hammond and the rest of the upper administration’s behinds like I am with UC is that they took a pay cut last, they offered to double the cut the rest of the staff took, when the rest of the staff didn’t take a cut, they still took one.

  9. David M. Greenwald

    Greg, btw, you weren’t on here when I did call Bruce Colby out in 2008 for taking a pay increase (he has since taken a pay cut): link ([url]https://davisvanguard.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1228:why-is-djusd-considering-pay-and-benefit-hikes-during-fiscal-downturn&catid=68:budgettaxes&Itemid=119[/url])

  10. Greg Kuperberg

    All right, yes, you gave your answer. Their leadership was on display last year, so you’re sure that there will be ample leadership this year; it doesn’t need a discussion.

  11. David M. Greenwald

    If the teachers end up taking a paycut and Hammond, Colby et al do not, then I will be on their case again. Until then, I think they have earned the benefit of the doubt.

  12. Greg Kuperberg

    There is one concession that the teachers certainly did not get. The teachers petitioned the district to renovate Emerson instead of building the new stadium. The school board turned them down. Now they are asked to take pay cuts while many of them work in dilapidated classrooms. So one question is if the school board can postpone the second round of the stadium project and do what the teachers wanted.

    Meanwhile, there are still posted advertisements for the Blue and White Foundation on high school property. It seems that that donor pool is taken to include every family with children in the high school. In the face of 88 position cuts, it could be an opportune time to replace these signs with a different priority.

  13. wdf1

    Teachers are already underpaid so I am not sure asking them to take a pay cut is fair either.

    The teachers who are the most underpaid of all (lowest seniority) are the likeliest to be without any pay at all (laid off). The teachers who remain will generally be the highest paid because they have the most seniority.

  14. wdf1

    What would motivate a person to donate to the Blue and White Foundation’s stadium project and not to DSF is that a donor might feel more certain that his/her donation will have a longer term good — a physical stadium that will be there year after year. That same donor might feel that a donation to DSF will only last a year and will then be gone.

    These aren’t necessarily my feelings, but reflect a conversation I had with such a person.

  15. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]What would motivate a person to donate to the Blue and White Foundation’s stadium project and not to DSF is that a donor might feel more certain that his/her donation will have a longer term good — a physical stadium that will be there year after year. That same donor might feel that a donation to DSF will only last a year and will then be gone.[/i]

    This sense of permanence is reflected in the way that these foundations advertise around the high school. There is a metal-mounted sign for the stadium and Blue and White at the corner of the high school property. DSF put up some flags that were eventually taken back down again.

    It carries a message: Education comes and goes; football is forever!

  16. wdf1

    It carries a message: Education comes and goes; football is forever!

    That is a clear feeling you can get in west Texas, in places like Odessa and Abilene. High school football is a point of city pride beyond anything imaginable around here. But at least Texas seems to provide more stable funding for its K-12 system.

  17. Frankly

    The media and political class are now interested in Haiti and have been discussing ideas for creating substantive and lasting improvements to that impoverished nation. Although literally and figuratively worlds away from our current crisis in education, the similarity is that both are in crisis and in need of a permanent fix. Like with Haiti, until now few have had the stomach to talk about the need for real reform. The US has sent millions in aid only to allow the systemically broken Haitian system to barely tread water. Similarly, we throw billions at our US public education system that is largely broken (except maybe in places like Davis where well-educated parents and good brain genetics of the student population provide the academic tape and glue).

    If I am wrong and we still continue to bury our head in the sand waiting for more funding to fall from the sky or be extorted from the pockets of struggling business owners, then the next step in crisis will be middleclass families dropping from the traditional public school system in droves pursuing more affordable public and private alternatives driven by advances in virtual classroom and distance learning technology. It is just a matter of time before families start to exploit these alternatives because they become more affordable, and because the traditional public schools provide a lower quality experience and outcome.

    Personally, I hope this happens because otherwise I don’t think there will be enough “crisis” in education to motivate the kind of change needed. Too many people think the system is fine, just underfunded. The problem with that thinking is the hold out expectation that there will be more funding. It won’t happen. The only sustainable solution for the business of public education has to be greater efficiency and much stronger outcomes. Basically, public education has to retool to do more with less. Otherwise it will be replaced by technology-enabled alternatives just like every other service we require or desire.

  18. wdf1

    Take the number of Davis schools,

    16

    divide it by 88

    =.18…? ???

    how many layoffs would that be ?

    I’m sorry for being so clueless, but I don’t get your point.

  19. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]But at least Texas seems to provide more stable funding for its K-12 system.[/i]

    That is because California has been poisoned by direct democracy and Texas has not. California can’t provide stable funding for anything. This is not because Texans are fundamentally more enlightened people than Californians.

    The fact remains that when Davis teachers asked for classroom renovations, the district ignored them. Now they want pay cuts. The teachers have every right to think that commitment to education is sometimes a one-way street.

  20. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]extorted from the pockets of struggling business owners[/i]

    “Extorted from the pockets of struggling business owners”? I am wondering now whether you are the same Jeff Boone as the one who sells SBA 504 loans from an office in Davis. Because, this is yet another government program, as it happens one that the Republicans in Washington wanted to eliminate.

  21. wdf1

    68 teacher layoffs spread over 16 schools means each school loses 4.25 FTE teaching positions.

    Article on Montgomery Elementary in today’s Enterprise says that it stands to lose more than 8 teachers. That seems to be the case with newer schools like Montgomery and Harper JH.

  22. Frankly

    I am wondering now whether you are the same Jeff Boone as the one who sells SBA 504 loans from an office in Davis. Because, this is yet another government program, as it happens one that the Republicans in Washington wanted to eliminate.

    Yes, well even loved family members can be wrong and make a person mad at times. The SBA 504 is a zero-subsidy program… it pays for itself. Republicans that have targeted SBA programs have done so for ideological reasons: they fundamentally don’t believe that government can do a better job than the private sector. Also, since SBA is such a small agency with fewer stakeholders, they become a favorite target of those trying to bolster their political credentials for shrinking the size of government. However, the SBA programs are unique in that they require a partnership with participating private banks. My company is certified by SBA and exists primarily as the liaison between the borrower, bank and SBA. We are in the communities helping small businesses to survive and grow (and I know first hand how much they are struggling today), but we exist primarily because if the banks had to deal with SBA directly, they would likely not participate in the program. Just like with public education, there are a lot of good and talented people working for SBA. However, their rules and processes are most inefficient and private industry would not tolerate dealing directly with them.

    Despite what you might think, I am not an anti-government guy. I support government programs that work and return social and economic value commensurate with their costs in comparison to the alternatives available. I do think that the private pursuit of profit (note, my company is a private non-profit and we donate most of our net excess earnings every year), if ethical and moral is a more effective model for many things that the government tries to do, but government is not a bad thing per se.

    I think this SBA model is a good example of private-public partnership that works. Maybe public education could be improved by adopting something similar.

  23. SODA

    Interesting 2 articles you have today DPD. Is anyone else struck by the irony of City Council doing very little on terms of budget savings and personnel costs/numbers VS Hammond? Both have unions but I see him as much more responsible.

  24. wdf1

    It is just a matter of time before families start to exploit these alternatives because they become more affordable, and because the traditional public schools provide a lower quality experience and outcome.

    If there are results of these alternatives as compared to public education, particularly for at risk groups [lower income, non-English speaking families, both parents w/o college education, for instance], please share.

    I cringe at the thought of spending large amounts of money on untested ideas.

  25. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]Just like with public education, there are a lot of good and talented people working for SBA. However, their rules and processes are most inefficient[/i]

    They’re inefficient? Then it would be easy for me to say that Congress should punish them with budget cuts until they get into shape, and that they should be able to succeed with whiz-bang new technology. All it would take for me to say this would be to not know anything about it.

    Also, since you like to talk about how efficient the private sector is, you might take a look at the private schools in Davis, St. James and Merryhill. Their costs are at least as high per student as DJUSD, but their actual instruction is not particularly better, nor even all that different.

  26. Frankly

    If there are results… please share

    There is anecdotal evidence that it works given it exists and is expanding. See here for more information: http://www.worldwidelearn.com/elearning-industry/index.html look at the”trends” link.

    particularly for at risk groups

    My opinion is that any kid that needs human help gets it, and you make this help available by moving the rest to e-learning, virtual classrooms, webinar courses, self-study, technology-enabled facilitated group study… and anything else that frees up the teacher from spending time on kids and subjects that are better served on a screen. It is called resource optimization. Private companies do it all the time.

    Public education is stuck in a fairness paradigm… as in “all teachers and all students must be treated the same”. If Suzie does not need so much of the teacher’s attention because Suzie can keep up with the material using the non-human-labor delivery system, then the teacher is freed up to help Johnny who is about ready to drop out of school due to insufficient attention. If Fred the teacher is nails when it comes to his Algebra teaching methods and outcomes, then he is paid more and is retained to help the kids that need it. Teacher Sally makes less and staffs the Algebra help desk to answer questions from the brainy students online.

    We tend to do this backward today… the good teachers take the good students and the poor teachers take the poor students.

  27. Frankly

    Also, since you like to talk about how efficient the private sector is, you might take a look at the private schools in Davis, St. James and Merryhill. Their costs are at least as high per student as DJUSD, but their actual instruction is not particularly better, nor even all that different.

    Then why are families in DC standing in line for days and filling rooms to win the lottery for private school vouchers? Do you really want to make the case that public school education is the same value? As I said, it is primarily the Davis parents and brainy students that bolster Davis school outcomes. What if we had a “normal” percentage of troubled and struggling students? Do you think Davis teachers could rise to the challenge and have better outcomes than other schools? Maybe if all the rich people in town continued to expand the Davis Bridge program… but then you would need to factor that cost into the total cost of educating Johnny… as well as all the dollars spent by wealthy Davisites for tutors and $5000 saxaphones.

  28. Frankly

    the good teachers take the good students and the poor teachers take the poor students.

    This is not correct. What I should have written was:

    “The good teachers pay more attention to the good students, and the bad teachers pay more attention to the bad students.”

  29. wdf1

    [quote]If there are results… please share

    There is anecdotal evidence that it works given it exists and is expanding. See here for more information: http://www.worldwidelearn.com/…index.html look at the”trends” link.

    particularly for at risk groups[/quote]

    I had in mind K-12 public schools. Your link appears to be focused on higher education.

    If we’re using No Child Left Behind standards for declaring K-12 schools failures and putting them into program improvement, then it should be fair to use NCLB standards to judge the alternatives. What usually puts schools on PI (program improvement) is lack of adequate progress for at risk categories and subgroups.

  30. Frankly

    I had in mind K-12 public schools. Your link appears to be focused on higher education.

    The little guys need human teachers. I am thinking about grades 9-12 primarily, but some introduction to it in middle school.

    There are plenty of virtual classroom alternatives for high school, and they are expanding.

    Do you ever ask yourself why Davis parents would gladly dump their kids in Spanish Emersion when there is zero real evidence that it would help them in school or in life? Just a hunch, right? How do these results even get measured? It is this type of behavior that makes me distrust “proof before change” requirements demanded by those with a reason to block change. I wouldn’t trust the stats. For example, when you look at dropout rate studies from USDE, they are listed in the low single digits. Yet outside studies put it at 30%… boys at about 40% and black males nearing 60%. Like Greg arguing that private schools do not do a better job teaching for the same or similar cost, you can argue anything and find some stats somewhere to back it up.

    The evidence for electronic learning is simply that: it works for higher education, it works for high school, the technology is getting better and cheaper, kids are more technically savvy and pre-trained to learn from a little screen, it saves money that can be used elsewhere.

    The last point about saving money… that is the main point related to this blog topic. If not this, I am very interested in any other ideas for how we salvage our public schools in the face of so much decreased funding.

  31. indigorocks

    if there’s anyone they should get rid of, it’s karin kelleher from holmes junior high. she’s a complete fascist and doesn’t give a damn about underserved kids.
    she’s useless
    the teachers need to make up the full budget gap in concessions.
    we can’t get rid of all the proposed administrative positions…custodial etc etc are all essential.
    comeone teachers,,,give it up. it’s everyone’s money and it’s everyone’s problem.
    the firefighters, public works and cops also need to give up a little somethin too.
    they took all the sales tax money in the good times, it’s time to give it up!!!!
    everyone’s suffering except them.
    time to stop the fleecing of the city coffers.

  32. E Roberts Musser

    What I find “amusing” about all this is how the newspapers and spinmeisters in the Obama camp keep trying to convince us the recession is over! Hah! My guess is the budget misery is only just beginning…

  33. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]Then why are families in DC standing in line for days and filling rooms to win the lottery for private school vouchers?[/i]

    First of all, I said that private schools IN DAVIS don’t look any more efficient than or even very different from Davis public schools. I know something about this, because one of our children was enrolled in Merryhill for two years. That doesn’t mean that I have to answer for whatever is happening in Washington, DC. If I said, “I’ve been to the Jack-in-the-Box in Davis and it’s really pretty bad”, and you responded, “Then why do customers stand in line at Jack-in-the-Box in DC?”, it wouldn’t contradict what I said.

    As for why the DC voucher program had a lottery, above all it was a small program that got a lot of free advertising because it was highly political. Since it was discussed on a vast scale beyond the number of actual slots, it probably would have filled up unless it was really terrible. As you yourself argued about parents in Davis, just because they “gladly dump” their kids into Spanish immersion, that doesn’t prove that Spanish immersion is a good idea.

    There are any number of reasons why a program like this could work better as a showcase than for an entire district. For instance, the private schools could simply have turned away children who had previously been suspended from school. Or low-performing children could have felt ostracized and overworked in the voucher program, or defeated by low grades, and reverted back to the public school system.

    [i]As I said, it is primarily the Davis parents and brainy students that bolster Davis school outcomes. What if we had a “normal” percentage of troubled and struggling students?[/i]

    That’s an ironic argument coming from you, since that is exactly the main advantage that private schools have over public schools. Public schools are the dumping ground for troubled and struggling students. But, as you have sort-of noticed, the private schools don’t have this advantage in Davis. That may explain relatively low interest in private schools in this district.

  34. wdf1

    Do you ever ask yourself why Davis parents would gladly dump their kids in Spanish Emersion when there is zero real evidence that it would help them in school or in life? Just a hunch, right? How do these results even get measured?

    DJUSD measures for Spanish language proficiency at Chavez in grades 2-6. Many Spanish Immersion students typically pass the Spanish AP test in high school. You could probably make a public information request for that at the district office if it really interests you.

    Fluency in a foreign language (especially Spanish in many parts of the U.S.) is an asset for many jobs and increases the potential number of clients and vendors you can interact with. With expansion of free trade, people with the ability to speak a second language stand the most to gain.

  35. Frankly

    Fluency in a foreign language (especially Spanish in many parts of the U.S.) is an asset for many jobs and increases the potential number of clients and vendors you can interact with. With expansion of free trade, people with the ability to speak a second language stand the most to gain.

    wdf1: I don’t disagree, but I was responding to the previous suggestion that you hate to spend money on education methods that have not been tested. We could make a similar claim that technology-centric learning will benefit people working in a global marketplace that is increasingly driven by technology. I know kids that started in Spanish Emersion and then struggled in school. How do we measure the overall benefit compared to the negative impacts? I think there is at least as much circumstantial evidence that supports the viability of technology-centric learning (at least for high school) as for the viability of Spanish Emersion.

  36. Frankly

    What I find “amusing” about all this is how the newspapers and spinmeisters in the Obama camp keep trying to convince us the recession is over! Hah! My guess is the budget misery is only just beginning…

    Being in the trenches working with small businesses in CA, I can tell you that the recession is not over for most of them. Although we are seeing a slight up-tick in new business starts compared to the previous 18 months, many existing businesses are in dire straits. They have laid off as many employees as they can and yet still cannot meet their debt obligations. They cannot get operating credit from banks, and since their business and personal real estate (their primary assets) have lost so much value, they cannot leverage these as collateral to secure more credit.

    Every time I hear Obama, Geitner and Bernanke talk about the recession being over, I think about what all these small business owners must be thinking as they lay off employees and receive their notices of default from the bank.

  37. wdf1

    I think there is at least as much circumstantial evidence that supports the viability of technology-centric learning (at least for high school) as for the viability of Spanish Emersion.

    One of the biggest questions the original Davis SI advocates had to address in such a program was “does the intensive instruction in a second language limit a student’s performance in English?”

    The answer at the time to that question came from examining similar models in Canada, where there were French Immersion or English Immersion schools in certain parts of the country. The answer was that there may be some initial delay in English proficiency (in earlier grades), but that the students gradually catch up (by ~5th/6th grade). That trend has actually played out with at Cesar Chavez.

    If a person is to learn a second language, it is more effective to learn it before puberty, according to people who are smarter than I am.

    I should think that there is already enough useful innovation in pedagogy out there whose success can be measured.

    If you follow ideas of evolutionary theory, instances of successful evolution often take place among species in smaller, stressed communities who then later radiate out into broader environments.

    Compared to most other districts, DJUSD is not as significantly stressed of a school district. We can afford to look around and see if there are workable ideas out there that we like.

    If you want to counter that we are witnessing too rapid a change going on for us to wait and see here in Davis, then I concede that we have a point of legitimate disagreement.

  38. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]I know kids that started in Spanish Emersion and then struggled in school. How do we measure the overall benefit compared to the negative impacts?[/i]

    First, it’s called “Spanish immersion”; “emersion” is not a word. Second, one of our children was in Spanish immersion for two years and I can say something about why. We thought it was useful to have our son learn some Spanish. We weren’t hanging on the edges of our seat for some study to prove “overall benefit”; it was a simple matter of preference. Aren’t you in favor of choices in education? I certainly am. But you shouldn’t lump together choice and all other victories. It is not true that choice = competition = carrots and sticks = whiz-bang technology = overall benefit = old guard eats crow.

    Although we didn’t think it mattered much in early grades, we did get the feeling that in later grades, it would be cumbersome to combine Spanish immersion with math and English instruction. That’s why we switched out of Spanish immersion eventually. But the Spanish faded somewhat as a result, and Davis kids who stay in Spanish immersion generally do well enough. Again, this is just family preferences either way; this is not about stampeding to winning programs and kicking losing programs to the curb.

    [i]Every time I hear Obama, Geitner and Bernanke talk about the recession being over, I think about what all these small business owners must be thinking as they lay off employees and receive their notices of default from the bank.[/i]

    “Recession” is a technical economic term that refers specifically to economic contraction. It is not a political pronouncement like declaring a disaster area. The recession is over when the economy is expanding, but that does not mean that unemployment is going down. Unemployment could still go up if worker productivity rises faster than the economy expands, or even if the national population expands faster than the economy.

  39. wdf1

    I know kids that started in Spanish Emersion and then struggled in school.

    That may be true. Unlike GATE, there is no aptitude test required to get into SI. It is entirely a parent choice. A child of any ability can be enrolled, starting in kindergarten.

    What you imply is that those kids struggled in school because they were in SI. Academic aptitude in a child may not be clear in kindergarten or first grade. It may not have been a good fit for that particular child.

    A parent also has the option to enroll their child in the Montessori program at Birch Lane. No prior aptitude test required, just parent choice. I also know of a kid who struggled in the Montessori program. I don’t think it was because the program was a failure, but rather that it probably wasn’t a good fit for that child.

  40. Rich Rifkin

    [quote]We thought it was useful to have our son learn some Spanish. … this is just family preferences either way; this is not about stampeding to winning programs and kicking losing programs to the curb. [/quote] I’m an enthusiastic supporter of language immersion programs. It’s the best way for most people to become fluent in a second idiom. Although I took Spanish for four years at Davis High School, took more in college and even more in grad school, I was never fluent until I moved to Guadalajara and had to sink or swim.

    What I question about the Spanish immersion program in Davis, though, is why it includes kids whose first language at home is Spanish? Anecdotally, I have heard 1-in-5 CCE kids are from Spanish-speaking homes.

    I would think that children who already speak Spanish are not well served by going to Cesar Chavez. Those kids need to be integrated into a mainstream, English-speaking classroom in order to become fully functional, fully literate in English.

    The old, highly politicized “bilingual education” programs were failures for large percentages of Spanish-speaking children because they ultimately failed to mainstream kids. They went in speaking Spanish and very little English and came out speaking Spanish and very little English.

    Yet isn’t that a big risk with children in Cesar Chavez who go in primarily speaking Spanish?

    A great benefit of having the native Spanish speakers in our immersion program, a parent of a Chavez-student whose first languge is English told me, is that they know Spanish so well, they end up teaching the native English speakers. But for those kids, the advances in Spanish-language acquisition by the Gringos would be much slower.

    That is great for the Gringos, but that doesn’t “immerse” the children whose first language is Spanish. If fluency in a second language is the goal, having kids in “Spanish immersion” who are already fluent in that language but not fluent in English defeats the purpose for those kids.

    It makes me wonder, then, if these native Spanish speakers are not being directed into Cesar Chavez for political purposes, the way kids were pushed into failed bilingual education programs?

  41. wdf1

    What I question about the Spanish immersion program in Davis, though, is why it includes kids whose first language at home is Spanish? Anecdotally, I have heard 1-in-5 CCE kids are from Spanish-speaking homes.

    “Spanish-speaking home” doesn’t show the variety of situations and levels of Spanish fluency that may exist. Very often there are two-language homes for various reasons. For instance, both parents may be fluently bilingual, or one parent may be biligual and the other only speaks English.

    Those are just two possibilities. There are others.

    Chavez also identifies English language proficiency and has its own ELD program. Even there, don’t assume that they all come from Spanish language families. You could have, hypothetically, a Japanese couple enrolling their child at Chavez who is then also in the ELD program.

    I am certain that there are kids from Spanish only homes who go to Chavez and are also needing to learn English. I suppose that’s the result of parent choice, like it or not.

  42. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]What I question about the Spanish immersion program in Davis, though, is why it includes kids whose first language at home is Spanish?[/i]

    Because it’s what they and their parents want. Yes, it amounts to bilingual education; yes, it may fail to “mainstream” the children; and yes, it’s political. It’s political in the sense that the parents of these children want one kind of public education and you want a different kind of public education for them.

    Certainly in Davis, these families have every chance to choose English-only education. It’s frankly patronizing for you to suppose that someone is “pushing” them into bilingual education. The truth is that English-speaking Americans are the ones doing the pushing. They are pushing Spanish-speaking Americans into the majority language.

    Now, I personally am not a bilingual education partisan. I accept that immersion is the fastest way to learn a second language. But I don’t like the reasoning, “If such-and-such ethnic group does not agree with me about what’s best for them, then they must be led by Pied Pipers.”

  43. Rich Rifkin

    [quote] It’s frankly patronizing for you to suppose that someone is “pushing” them into bilingual education. [/quote]Agreed. I mean to be patronizing. I don’t think it is in the best interests of those children.

  44. Frankly

    No need to be sorry… I think we are all butting in.

    You have to go back to the beginning to understand how I got to Spanish Immersion. I really have no axe to grind with that program. I am only interested in ideas for lowering the costs of public school education while increasing the quality of outcomes. For DUSD, I would be happy to just lower the costs (the outcomes are already strong). However, I don’t see how that will happen with the current model. The reduced funding will decrease the service and talent pool (seniority comes first, right?) and lead to less positive outcomes.

    Think about it… how much do we write about the tragedy of funding cuts, yet within this we read very few ideas for what to do about it… other than hope our writing about the tragedy will result in government raising taxes.

    What solutions do you propose?

  45. Rich Rifkin

    [i]”Actually, it is a word… just the wrong word. My typing sometimes moves faster than my editor.”[/i]

    Yes, emersion is the wrong word. However, emersion and immersion have related (sort of opposite) meanings in astronomy.

    Astronomers use [i]immersion[/i] to mean ingress: “the entrance of a heavenly body into an eclipse by another body, an occultation, or a transit.”

    They use [i]emersion[/i] to mean egress: “the emergence of a heavenly body from an eclipse, an occultation, or a transit.”

    Language immersion, however, means “the state of being plunged or sunk in or as if in a liquid.” Hence, sink or swim.

  46. Rich Rifkin

    [quote]we are facing huge cuts and you are debating the efficacy of spanish [s]emersion[/s] immersion–really? [/quote] There will be huge cuts whether we discuss the cuts, immersion, emersion or submersion. So who is really harmed by having a tangential discussion?

  47. David M. Greenwald

    I don’t have much.

    In three to five years, the economy will increase, and we’ll be “ok” again.

    In the short term unless people are willing to increase taxes, I don’t see a solution.

    One of the reasons I have been tougher on government spending and taxation than a lot of my brethren is a recognition that it comes from one pot and finding your priorities. For me, the priorities of government spending should be education and social services.

  48. E Roberts Musser

    “One of the reasons I have been tougher on government spending and taxation than a lot of my brethren is a recognition that it comes from one pot and finding your priorities. For me, the priorities of government spending should be education and social services.”

    I don’t necessarily disagree, w one caveat. I would say CA has to do something about attracting more business. Attracting more people doesn’t work, bc they won’t pay enough in taxes to offset the cost of gov’t services they will require. So we need more business to increase our tax base. (I can’t think of any other way to increase the tax base without prohibitively raising taxes to the point where people just cannot afford to live in CA – can you?)

    And at the federal level, we have got to do something about 1) all the outsourcing of jobs that goes on; 2) offshore accounts that are allowed, so businesses here are permitted to get away with all sorts of tax dodges. Any comments or other ideas? We need solutions, and had better start suggesting/actively promoting some. Our politicians don’t seem to know what to do! 🙂

  49. David M. Greenwald

    From my standpoint, we have enough business to pay the bills when the economy is going well. California’s problem isn’t necessarily enough business it’s that for whatever reason it’s economy is prone to huge booms but huge busts. That would be where I might focus attention on, finding ways to diversify the economy to make it more slump resistant.

  50. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]California’s problem isn’t necessarily enough business it’s that for whatever reason it’s economy is prone to huge booms but huge busts.[/i]

    For the record, California’s economy is not especially more prone to booms and busts than other states. It took an unusually big hit this time, but there are several other states (like Michigan and South Carolina) with deeper recessions and even higher unemployment.

    What is true is that California’s state government, not its economy, is more prone than any other state to huge booms and huge busts. That is because of the state proposition system. By relying on capital gains rather than property taxes, the state budget is hitched to a wild ride. Moreover, supermajority budget rules, and spending and revenue mandates from other state propositions, have stripped away the state’s cash cushion. When other states rely on boom-and-bust revenues, for instance oil revenues, they establish endowments to average out spending. Our state government spent the last of its protection during the previous economic boom.

    The state’s budget instability in turn makes the state economy less stable.

    While California is on a rocky road, maybe rockier right now than most states but not the worst, it is unique in riding it with a wild bronco and a stagecoach with no suspension.

  51. Joe Kaplan

    I’m a real estate broker in town (as some of you know) and I would like to have more informed discussions with my potential buyers regarding the odds of Emerson closing within so many years. Is it off the table for a year or two? Could it surface again as an option with a new school board in a few years? What about 5-10 years out? Who at the district would be the best resource for buyers in discussing this matter before an offer is made. The more details regarding the short term and longterm estimates the better. Thanks.

  52. David M. Greenwald

    Joe: As I was pretty much told on Thursday, it’s not under consideration and won’t be for any time in the near future. The problems that led to the consideration a few years ago turned out not as serious as previously believed. The logistics and geography of the other junior highs pretty much assures that Emerson will stay open. So I would be fairly confident that for the next five to 10 years Emerson will be open.

  53. indigorocks

    If kids in Davis are doing good in school because of their parents’ socio-economic standing and good genetics, then we should at least try to give the same resources to kids who’s families don’t have money.

    In a perfect world, a perfect school and a perfect community, kids that were struggling would be given scholarships galore for tutoring, extra-curricular activities, and alternatives to the traditional methods of teaching. This would make an even playing field for those struggling students. Also teachers wouldn’t be allowed to verbally and emotionally bully and abuse these kids, because of their disgust for these problem kids. Every teacher would like a class filled with good, hardworking, respectful problem free kids, but of course that’s not the real world.
    Dedicating resources to the imperfect kids, would create that ideal situation in the classroom.
    Or we could just keep on going on the way we’re going and watch more kids slip through the cracks. We could just dump them and throw them away, if that makes us feel better.

  54. Frankly

    Melanie: I generally agree with you. I am a big believer in competition in life because even though there is somewhat of a tragedy in the gaps that can develop between winners and losers, the overall result is better for society. When you give people to much extra help, then a co-dependency develops that is ultimately degrading and destructive. However, in K-12 academics, I do not believe competition serves us well unless it is a competition between schools and teachers to create the best education outcomes for every classification of student.

    The key is a simple one: give all students everything they need to have the greatest possible potential to succeed in learning the material. Brainy kids do not NEED as much help, but their parents want them challenged and teachers generally have an easier time teaching them. Because of this, teachers can direct their attention and lesson plans toward a standard of the more gifted student and treat the gifted kids as winners and the struggling kids as losers. Unlike sports where you make the team or not, academics is pre-training for the competition of life and there should not be any teacher designation of student winners and losers. Grades are a benchmark and measuring tool for the level of success of the teacher, and an indication of how much and what type of help the student may need. It is not a win-lose reward for the student.

    I think there is a mindset with many public school teachers that the students work for them and are rewarded with grades. That should be turned around that the teachers work for the students and the parents of the students and the teachers should be rewarded for their success or failures teaching the material to every student that passes through.

  55. indigorocks

    Avatar said:
    “The school district should offer 68 golden handshakes , problem solved , out with the senior teachers and lose none of the new teachers “

    Hallelujah Avatar I couldn’t agree more. The same should be applied to law enforcement, prison unions, firefighters, and public works. If we’re not willing to implement a freeze on union payrolls in times of recession, then it’s time for the golden handshakes.

  56. indigorocks

    Jeff on your comment I agree with you too. The budget for education is huge. Teachers take up 80% of the budget. The rest goes to adminstrative officials, custodial etc etc.
    When teachers are takin up so much of the budget, the kids suffer and lose out on essential services. And yes, there are very few teachers that are willing to take the time and effort to teach struggling kids.
    What I think should happen, is that kids that are struggling in the traditional setting should be offered every service that could only be afforded by the richer students. Tutoring, camps, alternative learning styles, sports etc etc etc.

    The kids that are struggling are strugling for the most part from poverty. If we really took the time to properly educate kids it would avert so much suffering. There would be less prisoners. Of course the teachers unions and prison guard unions would not be happy about this because they would be getting less money, and less “clients” to serve in jail.
    Well you know I say too effing bad. At this point I don’t care about their pay roll anymore. There’s just way to much suffering and I can’t find any more justification to support inequitable wages in a time of dire need and struggle.

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