Parcel Tax: This Time It May Not Be So Easy

math-chalkboard.jpgThe school district has been able to get two parcel taxes approved, one in 2007 and one in 2008 with really not any organized opposition.  As a result, roughly 75% of the public supported the 2008 parcel tax.

However, the funding crisis has continued.  The district needs additional revenue to preserve what it considers core programs, as well as needing to extend existing measures into the future.

However, there are signs that it might not be as easy to pass this measure this time around.

The board is looking at language for a measure that would read, “Shall the Davis Joint Unified School District be authorized to levy a temporary special tax for a period of four years not to exceed the annual rate of $170 per dwelling unit for multi-dwelling parcels and $495 per parcel for all other parcels, that renews and replaces existing parcel taxes, to fund essential school programs including core subject classes, music, foreign language, athletic programs, librarians, counselors, nurses, school site safety?”

Two-thirds of the voters would have to approve the renewal of the parcel tax in a vote-by-mail special election in May 2011.  The decision of the exact date and form will be made later in this month.

Earlier this week, newly-inaugurated Governor Jerry Brown delivered potentially good news, announcing he would spare K-12 schools from further budget cuts.  But there is a big proviso there, under the condition that voters extend higher income taxes in a special election.

Without voter approval, K-12 schools stand to lose more than $2 billion in additional funding in 2011-12 due simply to the fact that tax rates are scheduled to decline.  That is a sizable four percent of the overall budget.

Governor Brown has already announced plans to ask voters to extend higher tax rates on sales, vehicles, and incomes.

His proposal has drawn criticism from groups such as the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Jon Coupal who heads that group said earlier this week, “California needs to get more education bang for the buck, it doesn’t need more dollars into education.”

Most notably he criticized the level of compensation in California, which is among the highest in the nation.

“We’d like to get more pay for good teachers and have bad teachers discharged by school districts,” he said.

Grover Norquist who heads an anti-tax group, Americans for Tax Reform indicates that Jerry Brown’s plan to put taxes on the ballot “violates no-tax pledge.”

“This is to make clear that putting before a vote a measure to extend the taxes that Brown has proposed would violate the pledge,” Patrick Gleason, California’s state affairs director for the group said. “We count that as an assist. It’s not a direct score, but it’s an assist.”

At the local level, pressure is mounting as well as organized opposition may be building this time.

In mid-December former School Board Member and current president of the Yolo County Taxpayers Association, John Munn, signaled that the taxpayers association may oppose the newly-proposed parcel tax.

“In October, the Yolo County Taxpayers Association advised the school board that it would not oppose a reasonable increase in the parcel tax to preserve core educational programs,” Mr. Munn writes, but explains that would be under under certain conditions.

According to Mr. Munn, the conditions include first, that the use of parcel tax funds must be clearly-defined.

Second, new parcel tax revenue must be used to restore those services that were reduced or eliminated since the 2009-10 budget.

Third, all funds collected from the new parcel tax should be reduced by an amount equal to funds received from the state to cover the accumulated state revenue limit deficit factor.

And finally, the new parcel tax needs to expire after no more than four years, unless specifically and explicitly extended by the voters.

“Unfortunately, the school board’s framework ignores nearly all of the Taxpayer Association’s concerns,” Mr. Munn writes. “In particular, the draft framework lacks a mechanism for reducing the parcel tax in response to restoration of legally required state funds.”

“As a result, local funds intended to cover an emergency shortfall would be locked into the district’s ongoing budget. This would, in effect, create a windfall increase in the ongoing budget that would make dealing with future revenue fluctuations even more difficult,” John Munn continues.

He writes, “Such double-dipping into taxpayer pockets is not acceptable. Before asking for a tax increase during a struggling economy, the board needs to clearly describe what is at risk, identify what services and programs would be supported and provide mechanisms for accountability. Trustees also need to understand they are not alone in seeking additional revenue from taxpayers, who are likely to face proposals for higher state taxes and increased local utility rates as well.”

He concludes that while the needs of Davis schools are real, they must be addressed in a manner “that provides for clearly-identified programs and services without saddling taxpayers with duplicate, ongoing costs.”

Other groups are arising as well, arguing that combining three taxes into one will trigger organized opposition to the tax measure.

How serious a threat these are remains to be seen.  Organized opposition really never materialized to the city’s extension of the sales tax measure which cruised to passage.  However, the amount of money here may be sufficient to trigger opposition.

The Vanguard also remains concerned that the district is not asking for nearly enough money in the next fiscal year to cover budget shortfalls.  While the Vanguard understands the polling done by the district, it also believes that any efforts to raise taxes while continuing to lay off district personnel would be counterproductive to their long-term goals and foster mistrust from the public and anger from parents and teachers who will look at the tax increase and question the use of district resources.

Polling shows sufficient support for the proposals, but if an organized campaign emerges all bets are essentially off.  For several years now there has really been one voice heard in the community – the school district explaining the need to maintain funding levels locally in the face of statewide cuts to education.

However, the rules are changing rapidly with a new governor and new rules in the legislature for passage of budgets by a less than two-thirds margin.  The district clearly needs additional funding to keep core programs afloat, but how achievable that becomes is a subject for many future questions.

—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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48 Comments

  1. Mr.Toad

    “We’d like to get more pay for good teachers and have bad teachers discharged by school districts,” he said.

    How would this balance the budget? Just how many bad teachers does he think there are? Is he suggesting we take the money saved from getting rid of the “bad teachers” give some to the good teachers and balance the budget with the rest? It’s amazingly absurd. Did anybody ask him to quantify anything?

  2. wdf1

    Polling shows sufficient support for the proposals, but if an organized campaign emerges all bets are essentially off.

    There was organized opposition to one of the first DJUSD parcel taxes, but it passed anyway.

  3. Neutral

    There was organized opposition . . .

    Yes, and another one failed precisely because the district asked for a blank check, and couldn’t be bothered to tell us where the money would be spent. I agree with Munn on this one, on all points.

    And I’m surprised – and question – the consultant’s report on the level of support.

  4. davisite2

    $500/year is “real money”. What with the housing market being in the toilet for the foreseeable future, the argument that self-taxing for Davis education ultimately returns significant property value benefits to home owners has lost its clout. It will be a close call for passage.

  5. E Roberts Musser

    Why is the School Board unwilling to do those things required for the support of the Yolo County Taxpayers Association? What Munn has requested in his 4 points sounds quite reasonable in the current abysmal economic circumstances. Which of the 4 points does the School Board find unacceptable?

  6. wdf1

    Neutral: Yes, and another one failed precisely because the district asked for a blank check, and couldn’t be bothered to tell us where the money would be spent. I agree with Munn on this one, on all points.

    That wasn’t a parcel tax to fund school programming. It was bond Measure H, meant to fund facilities — buildings and such — defeated in November, 1997. A modified bond measure was resubmitted to the voters in May 2000, and passed. This bond included funds to help finance Harper JH, Montgomery, & Korematsu. The year 2000 was also when Measure J passed to restrict growth in Davis, even as a main premise for passing the school bond that year was to accommodate future growth in Davis.

  7. trudave

    According to yesterday’s Enterprise,the district decided to go with a 4 year time period vs the 6 years previously discussed. That meets one of Mr. Munn’s demands. Not a good thing in my opinion but nevertheless the demand has been met-so now he has less to whine about.

    Why can’t people see that investing in education is one of the best uses of money there is? Look at the cost of private schools. $500 is a bargain!

  8. wdf1

    What with the housing market being in the toilet for the foreseeable future, the argument that self-taxing for Davis education ultimately returns significant property value benefits to home owners has lost its clout.

    That is a premise that can be best addressed by asking a local real estate agent after having 2-3 beers (after work). As of a couple of years ago, I know that the answer was definitely that passing local school parcel taxes makes a difference in the value of the houses.

    If you’re a parent shopping to buy a house in the area, Davis schools look so much better than most other alternatives. A subtext for supporting the local funding of public schools in Davis is that you’d like to see your kids have a grade school education that might give them the preparation to attend a university like what Davis hosts (UC Davis). With the declining level of funding to schools across the state, it is less likely that most school districts can offer that kind of preparation.

    In Davis, housing prices have dropped, but still hold their value very well against other communities.

  9. Jbelenis

    The school board was asked to insert language that there would be an automatic trigger to reduce the difference between the combined amounts of Q and W and the amount that they are asking for if the State starts making up its shortfall. This is just a trigger on the “bridge” amount.
    $500 is a lot of money. I would have been ready to supprt this measure if I knew that there was some kind of releif if the tax were lowered once the State made up the difference.
    I really find it hard to beleive that the board is willing to go “all in”. If 10% decide not to vote yes, they (we parents) are in serious trouble. The arrogance given the economic situation in this region boggles my mind.

  10. jrmunn

    Before someeone else does it for me with deserved criticism, I want to confess an error in my comments to the DJUSD School Board last night, where I mixed up the annual amounts of existing Measures Q (enrichment) and W (replacent funding). Measure Q is $200 per year and Measure W is $120 per year. This changes the math leading to amount of “emergency” funding requested in the Board’s current parcel tax proposal, but does not make any substantial difference in the point of my comments.

    John Munn

  11. Rifkin

    Not that it will change anyone’s view on this parcel tax vote, but I find it strange that a community like Davis, which fancies itself as egalitarian, favors funding mechanisms of this sort which clearly violate the spirit of the decision in Serrano v. Priest ([url]http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us/articles/article.asp?title=Serrano[/url]). At some point we either say we favor equal funding for the schools or we don’t and we will simply use local property taxes for our schools, as was done prior to [i]Serrano.[/i]

  12. wdf1

    Not that it will change anyone’s view on this parcel tax vote, but I find it strange that a community like Davis, which fancies itself as egalitarian, favors funding mechanisms of this sort which clearly violate the spirit of the decision in Serrano v. Priest. At some point we either say we favor equal funding for the schools or we don’t and we will simply use local property taxes for our schools, as was done prior to Serrano.

    Serrano v. Priest, and ultimately Prop. 13, forced state funding to be a state responsibility, which we’re finding doesn’t work if you want your local schools to be better funded. It is probably easier in general to raise taxes at a local level than it is at a state level, under the current environment.

  13. Dr. Wu

    Rich

    I am glad to hear I am not the only one familiar with Serrano–I blogged about this decision before but most folks thought the point was irrelevant.

    We are likley in the midst of another great change in how we finance services in california that will push back on Serrano (and Prop 13 to an extent). Jerry wants to push more responsibility to local governments and ultimately I think we’ll see locals expected to pay up or have inferior services.

    Education should certainly be a top priority but you are exacvtly right that this does have disturbing implications–we already have serious inequalities in our society and these types of moves make it worse. I am not saying one should oppose helping Davis’ schools, but we should at least be aware of the broader ramifications of what is happening. I also have friends who live in Menlo Park and their school districts raises enormous amounts of money through fund raisers and donations.

    Serrano is being unwound.

  14. Frankly

    “Jerry wants to push more responsibility to local governments”

    This is just another way to kick the government budget deficit can down the street.

    We are in a “do more with less” era: a time when we need revolutionary, business-minded leaders who will incorporate all out-of-the-box thinking and ideas into their policy proposals and decisions. Alas, we elected a standard-issue, one-dimensional, career politician… one with a track record of very few revolutionary accomplishments to complement his long list of business-wacky ideas.

    Public education outcomes in California, and in America for that matter, are a joke when compared to the rest of the industrialized world. Yet, all we can do is wring our hands over where we will get the money to keep paying for it. The teacher unions, and Democrat politicians in their pockets, are banking on the same template strategy… hold out until they can pin quality issues on funding problems and motivate voters to tax themselves more. I don’t think that old method has enough gas left in the tank. Too many voters now are genuinely fed up with the status quo… they know they are receiving an inferior product, and they have enough evidence that spending more on the same does not produce improvements.

    Good article on the Gates Foundation and education reform. http://www.newsweek.com/2010/11/28/alter-education-is-top-priority-for-gates.html# I think Bill agrees that we need to “reboot” the entire public education paradigm and system.

  15. Don Shor

    Interesting article. Gates gives credit to Obama: ” Even so, Gates gives Obama an A on education. The Race to the Top program, Gates says, is “more catalytic than anyone expected it to be” in spurring accountability and higher standards.”
    The Race to the Top program is a $4 billion grant fund. ([url]http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/index.html[/url])

  16. Ryan Kelly

    So the tax would be as high as an additional $175 per household each year for 4 years ($700 total)? This is on top of the other bonds (roughly $200). So the total amount being paid to support local schools would be around $695 per year per homeowner? Is this correct?

  17. Frankly

    Don: I have been a fan of the “race to the top” program because it attempts to mimic the natural motivational order inherent in private-sector business competition… that is: provide the value and then be rewarded. I suspect this is a big reason while the world’s most successful entrepreneur likes it too.

    Given the success of this government program, it seems we should just privatize all public education since it would result in a perpetual race to the top.

  18. wdf1

    So the tax would be as high as an additional $175 per household each year for 4 years ($700 total)? This is on top of the other bonds (roughly $200). So the total amount being paid to support local schools would be around $695 per year per homeowner? Is this correct?

    Measure Q: $200/year
    Measure W: $120/year
    increase : $175/year
    total : $495/year

    D. Greenwald states that total above in his article

  19. wdf1

    Public education outcomes in California, and in America for that matter, are a joke when compared to the rest of the industrialized world. Yet, all we can do is wring our hands over where we will get the money to keep paying for it.

    Because this Vanguard article focuses on local schools, then are Davis schools a joke when compared to the rest of the industrialized world?

    The benefits of locally funding Davis schools far outweighs the cost.

  20. wdf1

    This is on top of the other bonds (roughly $200).

    Okay. My apologies. I didn’t understand your comment the first time through. I think bond money isn’t necesssarily fixed at $200 per household, but it variable.

  21. Frankly

    “Because this Vanguard article focuses on local schools, then are Davis schools a joke when compared to the rest of the industrialized world? “

    wdf1: I have been on record with the opinion that Davis schools benefit from high parental involvement and a gifted academic student gene pool. However, considering the overall outcomes, Davis schools are certainly not a joke. I think though, Davis schools are not too good teaching the kids that fall below the local bell curve, or that lack the local standard parental support capability.

    However, the topic had moved toward Serrano v. Priest and the consideration of local verses state funding. My main point was/is that funding is the union, media and political favored topic; but the larger concern should be the overall poor results returned despite the amount of money spent.

  22. Rifkin

    I’d be willing to bet:

    If you take two schools (A & B) with the same demographic profile, same socio-economic family backgrounds, essentially the same student bodies.

    And you give School A 25% more money than School B. And you give School B 25% more parental involvement. School B will produce better test results.

  23. Don Shor

    Yes, but all other things being equal more dollars probably lead to better outcomes than less dollars. It’s too bad the Valley Oak charter didn’t go through, since we’d have a great comparison of the results of different management styles by now.
    However, I think the concerns expressed by John Munn are valid. The problem is that if funds are increased and not applied to specific program restorations, they will immediately go on the table for pay increases. I don’t think the voters of Davis want to pay more taxes in order to increase teacher pay.

  24. wdf1

    The Jeff Hudson/Davis Enterprise account of last night’s meeting:

    [url]http://search.davisenterprise.com/display.php?id=72906[/url]

    It has a little more detail on the board discussion that may offer fuller context.

  25. Frankly

    “Yes, but all other things being equal more dollars probably lead to better outcomes than less dollars.”

    Under most circumstances this argument would make logical sense, but I don’t think there is much real evidence proving this point related to public education.

    Just the oposite is in fact true: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2008/09/does-spending-more-on-education-improve-academic-achievement

    I agree with Rifkin that levels of parental involvement, assuming all other things are equal, has a measurable impact. There are plenty of data backing this theory. However, this is something we cannot control, can we?

  26. Rifkin

    [i]”Yes, but all other things being equal more dollars probably lead to better outcomes than less dollars.”[/i]

    If you have unionized teachers calling the shots when the budget is cut and they fire the most recently hired teachers instead of giving all teachers an equal cut in pay, your conclusion is probably true. So in a real world sense, I’ll concede the argument to you.

    But if on the other hand, when our district had a 10% reduction in revenues and everyone equally was cut back 10% in total comp, I doubt there is any reason to think less money would result in worse outcomes.

    I think in the long run the best hope for any public school is 1) paying teachers* for performance and 2) encouraging (or even requiring) parents to take an active role in the schools. The worst outcomes will come when the parents are indifferent and left out of the equation and when teacher pay is divorced from student achievement/performance.

    An interesting case study is with the Kansas City schools ([url]http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-298.html[/url]), where a federal judge believed exactly what Don Shor suggests–that money is the cure. Every examination of the KC results proved the judge wrong: [quote] In Kansas City they did try. A sympathetic federal judge invited district educators literally to “dream”–forget about cost, let their imaginations soar, put together a list of everything they might possibly need to increase the achievement of inner-city blacks–and he, using the extraordinarily broad powers granted judges in school desegregation cases, would find a way to pay for it.

    By the time the judge took himself off the case in the spring of 1997, it was clear to nearly everyone, including the judge, that the experiment hadn’t worked. Even so, some advocates of increased spending on public schools were still arguing that Kansas City’s only problem was that it never got enough money or had enough time. But money was never the issue in Kansas City. The KCMSD got more money per pupil than any of 280 other major school districts in the country, and it got it for more than a decade. The real issues went way beyond mere funding. Unfortunately, given the current structure of public education in America, they were a lot more intractable, too. [/quote] *I would have no problem with paying students for performance ([url]http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=95949912[/url]), esp. if the pay were directed at “at risk” kids, as they do in some inner-cities.

  27. wdf1

    Boone: I have been on record with the opinion that Davis schools benefit from high parental involvement and a gifted academic student gene pool.

    The gene pool bit seems to take free will out of the equation and might even be a bit too arrogant and self-serving for Davis parents to latch on to.

    I would cast it differently and say that the general population of Davis may value education more highly than other things that they could buy with their money.

  28. Rifkin

    [b]Boone: I have been on record with the opinion that Davis schools benefit from high parental involvement and [u]a gifted academic student gene pool[/u]. [/b]

    [i]WDF: The gene pool bit seems to take free will out of the equation and might even be [u]a bit too arrogant and self-serving[/u] for Davis parents to latch on to. [/i]

    Not if it is just stating an obvious fact. I think it would defy common sense to disregard the gene pool in a town full of academics. A disproportionate percentage of children in the Davis schools are the genetic byproduct of parents who are inordinately brilliant. Of course not every child of someone with a high IQ will be as smart as his parents. But obviously–and based on a lot of study of the issue–a large group of parents with high IQs will produce offspring who, on average, are well above average.

    I grant, at the same time, that kids in Davis who come from parents with IQs in the 90-110 range are no more likely to be geniuses than kids in other towns with parents in the average range. And Davis, of course, has its share of kids whose families are (based on parental IQ) average.

    But our own parental IQ distribution is different than you would find in most non-academic towns, and probably similar to what you would find in places like Irvine or Eugene or Cambridge.

    As to your “free will” point, I think that applies to anyone on an individual level. In other words, you take two kids with the same genes (or IQ), one might just have a lot more individual drive or some other factor which propels him to great classroom success compared with his “equal” classmate.

    But if you look at a larger group, the evidence suggests that kind of thing washes out.

  29. Don Shor

    I wrote: “all other things being equal more dollars probably lead to better outcomes than less dollars.”

    Rich: I doubt there is any reason to think less money would result in worse outcomes.

    Jeff: I don’t think there is much real evidence proving this point related to public education.

    So are you opposed to, or in favor of, increasing the local tax, as proposed by the board?

  30. wdf1

    Shor: “Yes, but all other things being equal more dollars probably lead to better outcomes than less dollars.”

    Boone: Under most circumstances this argument would make logical sense, but I don’t think there is much real evidence proving this point related to public education.

    Just the oposite is in fact true: http://www.heritage.org/resear…chievement

    I read the article, mostly a literature survey. The text of the article is a little more nuanced than the proposition you want to support. For example:

    [quote]Despite the lack of consistent findings, leading researchers in the area acknowledge that any effect of per-pupil expenditures on academic outcomes depends on how the money is spent, not on how much money is spent.[/quote]

    and a suggested example of how this is the case:

    [quote]The high and increasing percentage of funding that is allocated to non-classroom expenditures is evidence of the need to improve resource allocation in the nation’s public schools. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 52 percent of public Education expenditures are spent on instruction.[/quote]

    I would like to spend more time looking at this article, but I sense some sketchy logic. The paper suggests going in the direction of a voucher system (”school choice”), as a solution, but if the problem is really about what the money is spent on (i.e., lots on stuff besides instruction), then I would think that a voucher system may not be the necessary solution nor the only solution. And because the article originates from the Heritage Foundation, there may not be an interest in exploring a full spectrum of options.

  31. wdf1

    Shor: “all other things being equal more dollars probably lead to better outcomes than less dollars.”

    Boone: I agree with Rifkin that levels of parental involvement, assuming all other things are equal, has a measurable impact.

    Rather than vary one thing and hold everything else equal, I would want to know if you increased parent involvement, does that make increased dollars spent on education more effective?

  32. Mr.Toad

    As J. Kozel pointed out in savage inequalities, if its not about the money how come the rich always spend more on education.

    As for this genetic nonsense it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of both genetics and evolution.

  33. wdf1

    Belenis: The school board was asked to insert language that there would be an automatic trigger to reduce the difference between the combined amounts of Q and W and the amount that they are asking for if the State starts making up its shortfall.

    The reduction trigger provoked much of the board discussion on how to craft the parcel tax. The reduction trigger would be a clause in the parcel tax that said that if state general funds to education returned to a “normal” level at some point during the term of the parcel tax, then the parcel tax would be reduced by an amount equivalent to the hypothetical surplus over normal.

    Allen, Daleidan, and Taylor pointed out that if the voters affirm the parcel tax, what they are doing, in fact, is giving permission to the school board to levee the assessment up to the level voted on in the parcel tax election. A school board can vote to assess at a level less than maximum. They argued that this is as much a reduction trigger as writing one into the parcel tax, but that board would have more flexibility to consider all factors in play. That having a written reduction trigger in the parcel tax would not imagine all the circumstances that could occur.

    They continued their argument by saying that if taxpaying voters don’t like the board decisions on those assessments, then they have the option to vote in new board members every two years.

    Every June, toward the end of the fiscal year, the school board holds the public hearing on what level to set the parcel tax and CFD’s. They have followed Brown Act guidelines and posted the agenda in advance on these items. I have seen such hearings in the past three consecutive years, and no one gets up to say anything.

    It’s very unlikely that state revenue will get back to “normal” within four years.

  34. wdf1

    As J. Kozel pointed out in savage inequalities, if its not about the money how come the rich always spend more on education.

    So they don’t have to hang out with the rabble?

  35. Don Shor

    A school board can vote to assess at a level less than maximum.
    They won’t. Pardon me for being cynical. I think it is reasonable to assume that the assessment will be for the full amount allowed. We already have people on record who don’t believe this is enough (“The Vanguard also remains concerned that the district is not asking for nearly enough money…”).

    “… this is as much a reduction trigger as writing one into the parcel tax, but that board would have more flexibility to consider all factors in play.”
    There’s a big difference between a hypothetical possibility and a written commitment.

    If taxpaying voters don’t like the board decisions on those assessments, then they have the option to vote in new board members every two years.
    The taxpayer’s association is asking the board to make reasonable commitments in advance that reserve this funding for the emergency that is being used to justify it. They are asking for a firm commitment to fiscal prudence. In the absence of a visible demonstration that the money will be used wisely and only for clear, stated purposes, it may be hard to sell this increase. The amount is not insignificant and everybody has less discretionary income these days.

  36. E Roberts Musser

    Don Shor: “The taxpayer’s association is asking the board to make reasonable commitments in advance that reserve this funding for the emergency that is being used to justify it. They are asking for a firm commitment to fiscal prudence. In the absence of a visible demonstration that the money will be used wisely and only for clear, stated purposes, it may be hard to sell this increase. The amount is not insignificant and everybody has less discretionary income these days.”

    Well said.

    wdf1: “Every June, toward the end of the fiscal year, the school board holds the public hearing on what level to set the parcel tax and CFD’s. They have followed Brown Act guidelines and posted the agenda in advance on these items. I have seen such hearings in the past three consecutive years, and no one gets up to say anything.”

    I think one of the reasons people do not show up to Davis School Board meetings is bc of the extremely negative reception they will get if they oppose what the Board is asking for. I know when I spoke before the School Board about the closure of Valley Oak, I got a “dressing down” from Tim Taylor. Yet when I spoke before the County Board of Education, they were very respectful. Frankly, my impression is the Davis School Board is more entrenched in their ideology, and brook no opposition – they don’t want to hear it…

  37. Rifkin

    [i]”As [s]J. Kozel[/s] [b]Jonathan Kozol[/b] pointed out in [s]savage inequalities[/s] Savage Inequalities ([url]http://www.amazon.com/Savage-Inequalities-Children-Americas-Schools/dp/0060974990[/url]), if [s]its[/s] [b]it’s[/b] not about the money, how come the rich always spend more on education?”[/i]

    Jonathan Kozol is not a fair-minded thinker. He is a polemicist. He bashed his readers over the head with his argument that [i]everything always is about money.[/i] He never examined low-performing but high cost districts or high-performing but low-cost districts. He also ignored California schools where low-performing districts get the same money as most high-performing districts.

    The question of school performance is not about “the rich.” The question is whether you can significantly improve educational outcomes by simply spending more money. Jonathan Kozol says you can. But Kansas City (and a lot of other similar poor-performing but high spending inner-city school systems) suggest Kozol was wrong. The California example (since Serrano) shows more-less equal* funding will still produce widely variant outcomes.

    Surely a school which is terribly underfunded can improve with more money spent right. No one doubts that. But if you look at say the DC school system before Michelle Rhee** took it over, you could see more and more money spent every year–it was the highest cost public school system in the country–and the results never changed. More money spent badly produces no better performance.

    *There are still a small number of rich school districts in California (Palo Alto and Carmel, e.g.) which get a lot more money than the rest. However, something like 90% of California’s unified districts spend very close to the same amount per student. Davis, with its growing parcel taxes, seems to be trying to get away from Serrano.

    **Rhee improved the DC schools, largely by getting rid of the worst teachers. So they fired her, because better schools was not the goal in DC.

  38. wdf1

    Rifkin: Rhee improved the DC schools, largely by getting rid of the worst teachers. So they fired her, because better schools was not the goal in DC.

    How do you define improved?

    Jonathan Kozol is not a fair-minded thinker.

    Maybe. But his quote about the rich certainly resonates. I certainly don’t object to having the opportunity to show that money doesn’t make any difference in educating my kids. This is my current favorite quote: [url]http://despair.com/wealth.html[/url]

    Does an education at Country Day School, Sidwell Friends, Phillips, Andover make a difference?

    Davis, with its growing parcel taxes, seems to be trying to get away from Serrano.

    Your observation is well-taken, but if you care about funding your local public schools, what alternative is there? Just sit tight and do nothing but pray for better times?

    Allowing for the “Basic Aid” category of public schools (Carmel, Palo Alto, Piedmont) was a compromise to get the current system of school funding through the legislature. I don’t know current figures for per-student funding in California, but I know that when Measure W was passed in 2008, even that left Davis students funded at below the state average.

  39. wdf1

    Rifkin: Rhee improved the DC schools, largely by getting rid of the worst teachers. So they fired her, because better schools was not the goal in DC.

    wdf1: How do you define improved?

    What I’m getting at is that if school improvement is defined by raising test scores, she certainly did that. But there were feelings that she promised more than she delivered; that the rate of test score improvement was disappointing.

  40. Frankly

    “The gene pool bit seems to take free will out of the equation and might even be a bit too arrogant and self-serving for Davis parents to latch on to.”

    Biology and genetics matter. Born into a family comprised of high IQ people, or highly emotionally intelligent, or highly artistic people or highly athletic people, there is a much greater likelihood that you will be gifted with like innate capabilities. I don’t think this point can be debated. Certainly parental involvement has proven to be a key ingredient toward academic success. I don’t this point can be debated either. However, taking two families providing similar levels of parental involvement, assuming one set of parents is academically-gifted and the other is not, the academically-gifted parents would tend to do a better job supplementing the teaching of their sons and daughters. This then contributes to the “free will” point. The drive of a person – and I think kids more than adults – is primarily motivated by the performance feedback they get from others whom they respect. Parents play a key role here. But teachers also do.

    I see this as analogous to surfing a wave. When you stay on the front side of the wave, the momentum makes for an easier ride. However, when you fall behind the crest, you have to work much harder paddling to catch the wave. Davis parents supplement teaching. They help their kids stay on the front side of the wave and help set up a motivational feedback loop from teachers grateful for the help. However, this all damages the other kids: it pushes the wave further and faster, and it frankly makes the teachers lazy for dealing with those that struggle or lack alternative resources. The Davis public schools education experience tends to be polarizing for the students: either it was a great academic experience, or it was a lousy academic experience. Those in the middle are often very intelligent kids without academically-gifted parents able to supplement their education… these kids find a way to get Cs and Bs without inspiration.

    I wrote all this before I read the following article.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704111504576059713528698754.html?KEYWORDS=chinese+mother

    Now I am rethinking everything related to this topic. Apparently culture matters a great deal. I have made that point many times before, I just didn’t consider that my American culture of respecting the power of independence, freedom, free-will and natural human motivation might put my children at some disadvantage.

  41. wdf1

    Biology and genetics matter. Born into a family comprised of high IQ people, or highly emotionally intelligent, or highly artistic people or highly athletic people, there is a much greater likelihood that you will be gifted with like innate capabilities. I don’t think this point can be debated.

    It depends on how much importance you want to give to it. I think there are too many other factors to rate those kinds of genetics as highly as you want to.

    Malcolm Gladwell has some interesting thoughts on this in his book, [u]Outliers[/u]. You can get a sampling of one of his ideas, here, in which he discusses how your birthdate plays a significanta role in your success as a professional hockey player: [url]http://www.radiolab.org/2010/oct/15/singled-out/[/url]

  42. Mind_hunter53

    Teachers in Davis are well paid for their less than 9 month per year job. Most have baccalaureate level degrees and their compensation includes generous benefits and a pension contribution.

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