Teachers Defend Their Role in the Budget Process

choolscat.pngFor the past year and a half these pages have been a bit critical of Davis Teachers.  This was not due to any animus towards the teachers.  Nor was it from any widely held belief about teacher salaries.  We have been very critical of the salaries and escalation of the upper tier of city employees, but that clearly does not extend to teachers who we feel are underpaid.

Indeed we showed just last week that teachers in Davis on average make less than most City Departments on average.
Nevertheless, we have been pushing for teachers to take concessions.  Why?  Because the only thing worse than an underpaid teacher, is large numbers of teachers losing their job.  This would disproportionately impact the youngest and most enthusiastic teacher and it would harm the Davis educational system.

Originally the teachers were reluctant to take a 2.5% reduction in salaries as part of concessions designed to save the district $1 million and prevent the loss of up to 16 positions.  A few weeks ago as the enormity of the budget crisis hit the district, the teachers reversed course and decided to support concessions.

As far as we are concerned, they have fulfilled their obligation of joint sacrifice to this community and now it is time for the community step up and find a way to avoid the further layoff of 102 teachers and other district employees.  We believe this is a crisis facing not only this district but the state of California as a whole.  Unlike firefighters and other upper level city employees, these people are not making a killing off the public dole.  They earn a salary this is about median for this county and a total compensation that is lower than most city employees.

In today’s Enterprise, DTA presidents present and past defend teacher’s role in the budget talks.  From our perspective, this is unnecessary, but apparently they must have felt the heat.

They explain:

“At the time of this writing, DTA and the Davis Joint Unified School District have begun negotiations over the possibility of reducing teachers’ pay as the result of decreasing the number of instructional days in the school year. As all are aware from the various columns and letters published already in The Enterprise, this has been a complex and difficult process for all of us in DTA. We are also well aware that it has been unclear to the community why we weren’t more quickly coming to some resolution.”

The criticism was not so much that they were not more quickly coming to some resolution it is that they did not embrace concessions at least in principle.

They continue:

“Our organization is a democratic one, and every contract change requires a majority ratification by the membership. Before pursuing such negotiations, DTA leadership needed to make sure we had the support of a clear majority of our members.”

At the time of their initial poll or vote, it appears that their membership was split on the issue.

“Last fall we were initially asked to consider agreeing to reduce the number of days of instruction for next year. At that time, there was talk of a retirement incentive, which, if offered and accepted, clearly would affect the outlook of a number of veteran teachers on the idea of a pay reduction for next year.

In addition, it was unclear what the governor would propose in January for the next state budget. Further, the district had not yet articulated where the cuts might come from if a reduction in teachers’ salaries were not included in the budget. “

That last sentence I believe is inaccurate.  When the district laid out the budget, the suggestion was immediately that if concessions were not agreed to, there would be the loss of 16 additional positions with 20 layoff notices sent.  Certainly by January when the opposition to concessions was announced we knew what the consequence would be.

We wrote:

“Superintendent Hammond told the school board that the district would need to layoff of an additional 16 employees meaning at least 20 people would be noticed.”

How could the teachers not know that?  What changed the calculus in my view is not that 16 number but rather the fact that instead of facing 43 layoffs, we are facing 102 layoffs.

Nevertheless their position is that:

“We took a survey, and indeed many of our members supported the idea of exploring the option of a pay reduction without this information, but a substantial portion stated that they simply needed to know more.”

It was as they suggested what happened since that survey that changed their minds.

“Since that survey, the district has offered a retirement incentive that DTA has accepted and the Board of Education approved Thursday, a more bleak state budget was issued, and the district identified deeper cuts that would need to be put in place if savings were not realized by having fewer days of school.

With all of this information, more members agreed that considering a pay reduction as a result of fewer days of instruction was a reasonable next step, and our rep council recently voted to begin negotiations.”

Here are some of the concerns, they listed.  Some of these are legitimate, but many ignore changes that have occurred in the district with new leadership.

“Throughout this process, and even as we enter negotiations, there have remained concerns about how our district and the Board of Education have historically managed the budget. Many of our members have lived and worked in Davis for three or more decades, and have experience with multiple administrations.

There has been a concern that DJUSD has tended to keep more money as reserves than is absolutely necessary, and has cut positions rather than dip into reserves. There has been concern that monies coming into the district often were used to grow programs rather than maintain competitive salary and benefit packages. DTA members needed to make sure that this is not the case now, before sacrificing their own salaries to make up for a deficit.”

The first part of this is that the teachers need to understand that the current board along with Superintendent James Hammond and CBO Bruce Colby are not David Murphy and Tahir Ahad.  The district has never been better run fiscally than it is now even in the face of extreme fiscal problems that have emanated from the state level.

The reserve issue is largely a non-issue, there might be some latitude there but it would be one-time money.  The need to maintain competitive salary and benefit packages has been acknowledged in recent years but the money is lacking now to implement them.  I fail to understand why DTA members looking at the budget would not see what the rest of the community does–what is happening is not the result of stingy local leadership but rather a statewide crisis in education.

“At the time of this writing our members are mostly satisfied that these criteria have been met. We are now negotiating in good faith, asking for some fiscally neutral contractual elements as well as some assurances related to the above concerns.

As a unit, we would love to see an agreement where we never needed to negotiate for our salaries again, but came to a fair arrangement for salary increases to occur whenever funding for the district increases.”

I agree with the bottom line here, but I wonder if that will ever happen.  There seems to be the assumption that at some point we will go back to the good old days, I am not so sure that will occur.  This downturn comes with too many structural issues at the national, state, and local level most of which have not been addressed.

The bottom line is that the teachers are doing the right thing, we support their sacrifice, and will work with them to find ways to avoid further cuts in education.

—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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17 Comments

  1. Crilly

    The teachers may be doing the right thing, but they are not doing ENOUGH of the right thing. State workers, underpaid on average just like our teachers, have absorbed a 14.2% decrease in pay due to having to take three mandatory days off without pay each month. We hear from Sacramento that we will soon be hit with a 10% – 15% permanent pay cut, without any furlough days at all. Though Davis teachers are definitely underpaid, a 2.5% pay cut isn’t nearly enough to address the long-term structural issues you mention over and over again. Start with the top administrators, who are paid MUCH more than any teacher, and work your way down. But 2.5% is only a drop in the bucket, and just like our newly-signed city contracts, isn’t going to do the trick long-term.

  2. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]Now it is time for the community step up and find a way to avoid the further layoff of 102 teachers and other district employees.[/i]

    I totally agree with that, David. So it is very interesting that when I went by the high school, it has posted signs begging DHS parents to give money — for the stadium! I didn’t see anything on school property about donating to avoid layoffs, but the signs for the Blue and White Foundation were still there.

    You have been quite outspoken about right and wrong priorities on just about every issue in Davis. So what do you think about these signs posted at the high school? Because it seems to me that asking for donations for the wrong thing is worse than not asking for donations at all.

  3. E Roberts Musser

    DPD:”…now it is time for the community step up and find a way to avoid the further layoff of 102 teachers and other district employees.”

    Don Shor: “How?”

    There is talk by the DJUSD of instituting a new $600 per year parcel tax, that’s how – with some nonsense about reducing it when things get better. Since when have taxes ever been REDUCED?

    Greg Kuperberg: “So it is very interesting that when I went by the high school, it has posted signs begging DHS parents to give money — for the stadium! I didn’t see anything on school property about donating to avoid layoffs, but the signs for the Blue and White Foundation were still there.

    You have been quite outspoken about right and wrong priorities on just about every issue in Davis. So what do you think about these signs posted at the high school? Because it seems to me that asking for donations for the wrong thing is worse than not asking for donations at all.”

    Greg, you make a good point hear. I have argued for years that gov’t agencies constantly talk about funding coming from different pots of money, as a slight of hand to justify why they make many frivolous expenditures. But the bottom line is all tax money/donations come from one pot – the taxpayers’ collective pockets, which only has so much cash in it. DPD, you have pointed out yourself that we, the taxpayers, ought to take the money we would put towards renewing the city’s sales tax, and choose with our voting power, to take that same money and put it towards our schools.

    Taxpayers are going to have to think long and hard about where they want their tax money to go when these local taxes come up for renewal or new taxes are proposed for placement on a proposition ballot. A lot of taxpayers are without jobs, have taken deep paycuts, may have to take even deeper cuts or get furloughed some more or even laid off.

    Yet banks/landlords are still expecting homeowners/tenants to pay the mortgage/rent, the utility company still expects their bill to be paid, the city services bill, with its increase in water/sewer rates still has to be paid, as does property and income taxes. Then of course parents must feed themselves and their children, because the grocery stores expect to be paid, as does the gas station that dispenses fuel to the customer who needs gas to get to a job. I think you catch my drift…

  4. David M. Greenwald

    “There is talk by the DJUSD of instituting a new $600 per year parcel tax, that’s how – with some nonsense about reducing it when things get better. Since when have taxes ever been REDUCED?”

    Actually it’s more innovative than this.

    What they are exploring is a proposal that would not only reduce over time but pay taxpayers back? Now since when has that ever happened? Well this would appear to be a rather unique idea, so the answer is never.

    There is skepticism that it would work and that this is the right time to put a tax measure on the ballot, although if you read the PPIC of all California voters, it might be feasible. The idea is worth exploring at least even if it’s ultimately untenable.

    Blue and White foundation argues that they are raising their money from a separate group of donors than are the ones donating to DSF. Whether it is true or not remains to be seen.

    This is one reason I am opposing the sales tax, I’d rather money go to schools than municipal services.

  5. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]Blue and White foundation argues that they are raising their money from a separate group of donors than are the ones donating to DSF. Whether it is true or not remains to be seen.[/i]

    How can you say that it “remains to be seen”, if they have a prominent ad on the corner of the high school property? They are plainly advertising to every DHS family. And my question is not aimed at Blue and White itself. If there are Blue and White ads on school property, that is district policy. The district is asking for money on behalf of Blue and White, yet it is NOT asking for money to cover the state cuts. My question is about the district’s priorities.

    This “remains to be seen” phrase is just dodging the question. The high school is the district’s own property and policy, and you can go there any time and see it.

  6. wdf1

    But 2.5% is only a drop in the bucket, and just like our newly-signed city contracts, isn’t going to do the trick long-term.

    I believe the calculation was that 2.5% spread out over all employees (and I think 5% for admins, at least that was an initial offer) removes about $1 million from the budget.

    “…now it is time for the community step up and find a way to avoid the further layoff of 102 teachers and other district employees.”

    I think it’s 102 pink slips but about 80-something layoffs ultimately.

    How?

    DSF fundraising is one way, for those who can and want to. There may be a way that raising money for class size reduction can allow the district to bring in extra money from the state. So there is a potential “matching fund” scenario.

    Taxpayers are going to have to think long and hard about where they want their tax money to go when these local taxes come up for renewal or new taxes are proposed for placement on a proposition ballot.

    True, and that’s what the elections are for, obviously. The point of this action is that every conceivable strategy has now been implemented — salary cuts, parcel taxes, community fundraising, and layoffs.

  7. wdf1

    WDF: DSF fundraising is one way, for those who can and want to.

    GK: Yes, it would be nice if that included the high school.

    DSF is fundraising to restore secondary programs as well. One component of class size reduction (which is partially subsidized by the state) is English & math in grades 9 and 10. Secondary counselors (JH & HS) are also another target, as is secondary core programming. At their website, the Davis Schools Foundation says that these are their targets of fundraising:

    [quote]•Lower class size in grades K-3 and 9-10
    •Restore secondary core programming
    •Save the jobs of counselors who work with our junior high and high school students
    •Save positions that support campus safety

    [url]http://davisschoolsfoundation.org/[/url]
    [/quote]

    I didn’t see anything on school property about donating to avoid layoffs, but the signs for the Blue and White Foundation were still there.

    DSF signs will likely show up soon enough.

  8. civil discourse

    It is amazing how political pundits can so easily jump between bureaucracies and institutions. Teachers vs. Cops vs. Firefighters vs. Department of Public Works vs. UCD Lecturers vs. UCD Students vs. UCD Chancellor. Who makes more and who deserves more?

    But the fact is, each institution is the way it is because of a long history and it won’t change overnight. Teachers are not suddenly going to be city employees or firefighters, so what is the point?

    The only valid comparison here is between the Blue and Gold Foundation and the Davis Schools Foundation. Who will you give your money to?

  9. wdf1

    The point of this action is that every conceivable strategy has now been implemented — salary cuts, parcel taxes, community fundraising, and layoffs.

    I forgot to mention prayer. Some people are praying, too:

    [url]http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100210/A_NEWS/2100319[/url]

  10. wdf1

    California students have a higher than average pass rate on AP tests, but there are possible indications that recent and ongoing budget cuts may erode into this number:

    [url]http://www.latimes.com/news/la-me-ap-scores11-2010feb11,0,6247553.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+latimes/news+(L.A.+Times+-+Top+News)&utm_content=Google+Reader[/url]

  11. Greg Kuperberg

    wdf: The article about AP exams is interesting, but if you read carefully, there is a huge catch. California had good representation from Hispanics among the students who passed at least one AP exam. Why? Because they took the AP Spanish exam! The Hispanic batting average was about 3/4 of what is was for all Californians, while the African-American and Native American batting averages were only 1/3 of what they were for Californians in general.

    The data seems skewed by various demographics. The AP Spanish exam is a somewhat pat victory for Hispanic students. It also makes a big difference that California has a sizable Asian-American population.

  12. wdf1

    I, too, noted the pass rate for AP Spanish by Hispanic/Latinos, but I wouldn’t take a disparaging view to it.

    It is defined as college level Spanish by the College Board in NY. It is a basis for establishing that an underrepresented group in college enrollment is capable at performing at a college level in something. And native Spanish speakers can obviously speak the language with their peers, but many can’t work with correct grammar, spelling, and academic vocabulary that is expected. One might think that large percentages native English speakers would be academically proficient in English, but they aren’t.

    If this trend (high rates of AP Spanish success) becomes more widespread and consistent, I suppose it would be fair to break down pass rates/demographics by subject test categories.

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