Once Again Teachers Face A Daunting Choice

schoolscat.pngOn the crux of one of the brightest days in Davis in recent memory, a day when we had a hard fought victory to open a store in West Davis, something that many people told us would never happen, I stumbled onto a rather sobering conversation about the state of the school district.

We need to lay out these numbers for people to really understand what this all means.  Right now the district is facing a $3.5 million deficit for 2010-11.  This comes on the heels of three budget cuts one in 2008 and two in 2009.

As we reported on Friday, Superintendent James Hammond warned that if the budget that the governor goes through, and most of the budgets have been close to his numbers of cuts if not larger, that will add an additional $2 million to the deficit.

Already the Governor’s budget has been called too optimistic by the LAO who has said we will never get the billions in federal dollars that the Governor is calling for, so that $2 million is probably the floor not the ceiling for more cuts.

Dr. Hammond proposed the elimination of 33 teaching and administrative positions with the original $2.5 million with $1 million in employee concessions–2.5 percent salary reduction for five furlough days.

As we reported previously the teachers have narrowly rejected that proposal which means an additional 16 layoffs and 20 pink slips.  If that proportion holds that means the additional two million could mean 32 layoffs and 40 pink slips.

The word is that we could be looking to go back to 1998 levels of staffing.  That means any teacher hired in the last 12 years go be in danger of losing their jobs.  There are not many jobs to be found, but once we lose one of these teachers, they are gone and not coming back.

It is my opinion that teachers are not paid nearly enough for their work and their importance in our society.  However, these are not times to be talking about better pay and benefits.  These are times that we all join together for the sake of the children and take a shared sacrifice.

The citizens of Davis have dug deep in recent years.  In 2007 and 2008 the voters overwhelming approved two parcel taxes.  In 2008, the Davis Schools Foundation raised $1.7 million to save the district from massive layoffs.  The Davis Schools Foundation has raised hundreds of thousands more in the past year as well.

Now unfortunately it is time for teachers to make a very painful decision and temporarily take a pay cut to preserve the great schools that we have in Davis.  There is no more fat to be cut.  No more federal stimulus money that is going to bail us out.  This is a very tough decision, but the teachers need to rise up and take one for the team.

Today the Davis Enterprise has called on the teachers to take a 2.5% salary reduction.

They write:

“You know we love you. We’re parents, grandparents, community members and business leaders, and we appreciate the role you play in educating the next generation. We value our schools above all else, and we credit you for the excellence we’ve come to take for granted.

WE KNOW HOW HARD you work, and what a thankless task teaching is sometimes. We know you’re worth more than you’re paid, but considering the state of the economy right now and how much each of us has been touched by hardship, we’re not very sympathetic.”

They continue by pointing out that salaries have been cut and jobs have been lost in other segments.  The county is looking at another $20 million deficit.

“At Yolo County, the city of Davis and UC Davis, employee unions are agreeing to furloughs and other concessions to help cap spending, save jobs and preserve as many services for the public as possible.”


“SALIM SAYS she thinks some DTA members may be willing to consider concessions once they realize how many people could be affected by layoffs. Do we really have to go through that morale-busting exercise again?

Salim also says some teachers still harbor ‘bitterness’ at the memory of hard-won salary increases achieved several years ago, and are reluctant to give anything back.

We get that. But c’mon, can’t we all work together to do what’s right for all concerned?”

I understand this is a tough choice.  I have family members who are teachers including both of my sisters who will in the end, be victims of this downturn.  Schools in California are being cut to the bone and they were not doing that great to begin with.  There are no good choices here, but to me, the least bad choice is to at least save a few teachers’ jobs because those are people we will not get back if we lose them.

—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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9 thoughts on “Once Again Teachers Face A Daunting Choice”

  1. wdf1

    “Right now the district is facing a $3.5 deficit for 2010-11.”

    I think you mean $3.5M.

    If you read the superintendent’s message at [url]http://www.djusd.net/[/url], you will see that the grand total deficit they’re dealing with is $5.7 million in planning for the 2010-11 budget.

  2. wdf1

    Slightly off topic:

    The Forum section of the Sacramento Bee today features articles on homework in the schools, building off of DJUSD’s look at their homework policy. It’s interesting that the Bee seems to give heavier coverage to this particular issue in Davis than does the Enterprise.

    I tried to post links, but it requires registration, though it is free.

  3. Gunrock

    Hardly a choice… the teachers who have the least skill and the most toxic attitudes toward children will prevail. They have “seniority” and can’t be touched. Most insane system of trying to educate children ever.

    Rather than promote, reward and encourage GOOD teachers, we allow a system to protect the worthless.

    We have principals and superintendents, tell them what the budget needs to be and let them fire the ones that they know are useless and who only seem to drag down the good students.

    PS- I actually could provide you with a list of several toxic teachers, ones who are long past their prime and who parents are well aware of. The administrators are aware of them too. The problem is that the union leadership couldn’t care less about children. Their entire focus is on protecting seniority.

  4. indigorocks

    Hardly a choice… the teachers who have the least skill and the most toxic attitudes toward children will prevail. They have “seniority” and can’t be touched. Most insane system of trying to educate children ever.

    I agree with you completely, if we could get rid of the toxic teachers that are never held accountable and are responsible for destroying countless children’s lives, we would save a lot of money. The new teachers are fresh and encouraging. Not all of them of course, but I agree with you that there should be a process much like other corporations where the individuals are judged by customer complaints and compliments. The ones that receive the most complaints should either change their ways or go…
    but of course we know that’s not going to happen.

    ps. we also know that the survey the DTA gave to their members was slanted. Apparently they were given two options in the survey…vote for a pay cut: yes or undecided/no…
    look..as far as I can tell, that should be three options…not two with a slash in it.
    the dta is doing the public wrong.

  5. wdf1

    If teachers as a group ultimately decide to stick with their decision to forego concessions, it is important that they articulate their position to the public, because there are several threads of concern running among Davis residents, as partially represented in the Enterprise editorial. (By the way, access to the Enterprise is free today — Monday — no fee, no login required: [url]http://www.davisenterprise.com/story.php?id=601.0[/url])

    There is the concept of “shared sacrifice” that appears to be violated. The last era of DJUSD cuts in about 2002 took place because of huge cuts to classified (non-teaching employees like secretaries, custodians, and para-educators) staff. CSEA (collective bargaining organization for classified staff) agreed to cuts at that time under assumption that other groups (teachers and administrators) would also take cuts. That didn’t happen, and there are fresh and bitter memories of that experience. Key administrators also took cuts last year. Only teachers haven’t taken anything up until now. If they offered something, it appears that CSEA and the administrative staff would be willing to follow. Moving beyond the realm of DJUSD, a lot of residents have taken salary cuts, furloughs, and even layoffs in response to the bad economy and state budget.

    Connected to the above sentiment, there is the appearance of a “my job is more important than yours” attitude. It is also a common argument that creeps up in which some teachers (probably in lower grades) demand that secondary programs get cut first. But many of these are locked in by parcel taxes (Measures Q & W). To violate the terms of Q & W potentially invites a taxpayer lawsuit.

    There is the appearance of a mercenary attitude. That teachers are only concerned about maximum pay and not work place conditions. At present the district is proposing to raise class sizes higher (K-3 going up to 28+ students). Many would assume that it is easier and more productive to have smaller class sizes. It is something that parents would likely prefer; it is puzzling that teachers wouldn’t care enough to negotiate potentially preferable working conditions.

    There is concern that teachers with less seniority are disproportionately affected by layoffs. That maybe DTA decisions are made, disproportionately, by teachers who don’t have to worry about losing their job. If I were a more recently hired teacher, I would question if I were being served by the DTA. Offering concessions of some level would give some confidence that everything possible is being done to try to save my job (as a hypothetical recent hire), while recognizing that even then, some jobs will still be lost.

    There is the sense that everything possible has already been done except salary concessions. A lot of other services have been cut, staff laid off, reserves have been spent down (further spending down of reserves threatens the ability of the district to make payroll on time), money has been donated through DSF, and two parcel taxes passed in the past two years.

    If we face the worst economic situation of our lifetimes right now, and no cuts are taken, then when is it ever appropriate to take concessions? How would teachers justify receiving salary raises when times are good?

    Unlike many other districts DJUSD, its schools, and employees receive a lot of goodwill from its community, but that goodwill can’t be taken for granted forever. A Davis public that is significantly unsympathetic to the position of the DTA is less likely to donate to DSF. It is less inclined to pass a parcel tax renewal. These sentiments in turn threaten more teacher jobs. In the long run DJUSD is less able to attract future enrollment, meaning, again, fewer teaching jobs. DJUSD has had more stable enrollment compared to many surrounding districts which have had more significant declines.

    There is the appearance that offering concessions, although it would seem to be a short term loss, would have a long term benefit to its membership and the students they serve. Does it have to be 2 1/2%? I don’t know. Maybe it doesn’t.

    It isn’t up to Ingrid Salim personally to make the DTA do one thing or another, but she has been very good in articulating the spectrum of sentiment in the DTA and in carrying on a productive conversation in school board meetings. That is one aspect of good leadership. I hope that she and other key members can address these issues of a concerned public. The Davis public has been grateful to its teachers through the years, but would like to know what they are thinking right now.

  6. Gunrock

    wdf1 made a series of excellent comments.

    I have a completely ignorant question: what compels the district to deal with the DTF allowing them to dictate who gets hired and fired? Why can’t the district declare a fiscal emergency and abrogate the agreement?

    Public employee unions should be illegal.

  7. wdf1

    Gunrock: Apparently DJUSD could impose a “last best offer” even if it were rejected by DTA. The City of Davis can do a similar thing. It could be appealed by DTA, but in fiscally tight times, the weight would probably be with the district.

    The school board tries to maintain a collegial and consulting relationship with DTA. As you point out, not everyone agrees with this arrangement.

  8. indigorocks

    “I have a completely ignorant question: what compels the district to deal with the DTF allowing them to dictate who gets hired and fired? Why can’t the district declare a fiscal emergency and abrogate the agreement?”

    Excellent question Gunrock. Far from ignorant…and also to WDF1…I agree with your points completely..

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