Teachers and Superintendent Come Out in Support of Parcel Tax Increase

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1112-05.pngIn the past week, to the surprise of few, the Davis Teachers Association and Winfred Roberson came out in favor of Measure A, an increase to the parcel tax to help the district minimize the number of layoffs and programmatic cuts, as the result of ongoing cuts to the state budget for K-12 education.

Voters will decide in May via a mail-in ballot whether to increase the parcel tax by $200 per year.

According to a press release sent out late last week, the Davis Teachers Association has voted to endorse Measure A.  The two-year measure will provide emergency funds to the Davis school district to replace dwindling state support.

“As teachers and community members, we support this effort to preserve an excellent education for our kids,” said Cathy Haskell, president of the DTA.

Over the weekend, Superintendent Winfred Roberson also joined the list of supporters.

In an op-ed to the Davis Enterprise, he characterized the program as simple, “Davis Joint Unified School District has a $6 million ongoing budget shortfall.”

“The state of California has reduced educational funding for the past four years to levels that imperil the ability of every school district in the state to meet student needs and state educational mandates,” he writes.

He sees only two solutions to a budget shortfall – increase revenues or reduce spending.

“We can increase revenue locally by passing Measure A or we can reduce spending,” he writes.

On the other hand, he correctly points out, though many have missed the point, the district has already reduced spending levels by millions over the last three years.

In fact, even if Measure A is passed, it will only bring in $3.2 million to the district, which is only half of the budget shortfall imposed by state budget cuts.  The rest of the savings will have to come from spending cuts, which primarily means teacher layoffs along with that of support staff.

“We can all hope that the state increases revenue in time, but that clearly is not prudent. Hope is not a plan,” he continues. “The fiscal struggle continues at the Capitol while we are still legally required to submit a sustainable budget for three years in the future without any realistic idea of what the state or voters will do next.”

“There is no magic fix, no secret account and no additional federal funding on its way. We need to make the best plans we can for our children and move forward,” he concludes.

Davis teachers say they will be working in phone banks, standing behind tables at the Farmer’s Market, and talking with voters about the importance of passing the measure. The Association will also make a donation to the Yes on A campaign.

Ms. Haskell added that she hopes the district will include teachers, parents, and community members in decisions about which programs to restore if Measure A passes.

“Parents and teachers have the closest connection to kids, and should be given ample opportunities to provide input in the decision-making process about how best to use Measure A funds,” Ms. Haskell said.

According to the Davis Joint Unified School District, 63 layoff notices will be handed out to certificated employees this week to prepare for a “worst case” scenario in case Measure A doesn’t win approval.

“Measure A funds will bring those teachers back into the classroom to give our kids the class sizes they need to learn,” added Ms. Haskell.

As the Vanguard argued back in early February, the worst-case scenario is likely reality.  If all goes right, the voters of Davis pass Measure A and then Jerry Brown gets his tax plan on the ballot and passed in June, then the district could get by without additional layoffs.

However, the reality is that the state budget plan is not going to go forward, at least not in June.  And the most likely scenario is that we will have over a $6 million deficit with Measure A covering only half of it.

The voters of Davis will have to decide what our local schools are worth to us.  There appears to be a good deal more opposition this time around.  The district will apparently try its typical low profile, low turnout campaign and hope for the best.  We shall see if that is sufficient.

—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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20 thoughts on “Teachers and Superintendent Come Out in Support of Parcel Tax Increase”

  1. DT Businessman

    I support Measure A. Some have framed this as a debate of those without kids supporting those with kids. False, false, false. The welfare of our ENTIRE community depends on educating each successive generation, so that we have a highly educated workforce providing the goods and services that we will require in the future. Perhaps the DJUSD budget is bloated. Perhaps poor spending decisions have been made in the past. I do not know the details on those aspects. But right now, we have an all-hands-on-deck fiscall emergency that needs to be resolved. The prudent thing to do is to finance the current shortfall and then work at creating a long-term, fiscally sustainable financing source and budget.

  2. rusty49

    “The prudent thing to do is to finance the current shortfall and then work at creating a long-term, fiscally sustainable financing source and budget.”

    Ha, I wish I had a nickel for everytime I’ve heard that.

  3. DT Businessman

    Rusty, that’s a good sign; there must be a lot of prudent people around. Or are you seeing these many prudent comments coming from the same 1 or 2 individuals? 🙂

  4. E Roberts Musser

    Just my take on how the arguments will be framed in people’s minds:
    Arguments against Measure A:
    1) Firing of Coach Jeff Christian was unfair.
    2) Unwise expenditures on things like an overly fancy stadium while allowing MPR to fall to rack and ruin; closing of Valley Oak; other past fiscal foolishness.
    3) Schools are always stating there is an “emergency” that requires more funding. There will always be another “emergency”. Schools are a bottomless pit when it comes to wanting more funding.
    4) Schools have not improved quality appreciably, even though school funding has increased over the years. So more money does not equal a better education.
    5) Teachers’ unions have not been particularly cooperative in making concessions but would rather younger (and possibly better) teachers be laid off instead of lowering tenured (and possibly inadequate) teachers’ salaries/reduce benefits.

    Arguments for Measure A:
    1) The high quality of Davis schools are one of the main reasons Davis property values are so high.
    2) The layoff of teachers will be detrimental to the economy, with those laid off unable to find work or pay taxes. Less tax revenue coming in will necessitate more layoffs. More layoffs will be bad for the economy and any economic recovery will be doomed.
    3) The layoff of teachers will result in larger class sizes and lower educational quality.
    4) This is an emergency, because of the extreme recessionary times and lack of federal and state funding that will not be coming our way.
    5) Teachers do not make an unreasonable wage/make only a modest wage for all the hard work that they do.

    Others can add to these lists if I’ve missed anything…

  5. E Roberts Musser

    DTB: “The prudent thing to do is to finance the current shortfall and then work at creating a long-term, fiscally sustainable financing source and budget.”

    And how would the DJUSD “create a long-term, fiscally sustainable financing source and budget”? The only thing I can think of is a whopping large and permanent residential parcel/business parcel tax… and/or yearly fundraisers…

  6. Rifkin

    [i]”Perhaps the DJUSD budget is bloated. Perhaps poor spending decisions have been made in the past. I do not know the details on those aspects.”[/i]

    DTB: If we have a spending problem, and not a revenue problem, why would you want to add to the revenues? Wouldn’t you make adjustments on the spending side of the equation if you believed that was where the problem lied?

  7. Don Shor

    I’ve looked at the DJUSD budget in detail, as anyone here can do if they choose: [url]http://www.djusd.net/district/business/budget[/url]

    If you get the opportunity to hear Bruce Colby do an overview of the budget, it is worthwhile as it makes it clearer which funds are discretionary, which are mandated, etc. But my view is that it is not “bloated.” Cutting expenses means cutting teachers; teachers = programs. They have been cutting and will continue to do so.

  8. wdf1

    [i]And how would the DJUSD “create a long-term, fiscally sustainable financing source and budget”?[/i]

    Prior to this economic downturn, most districts developed a reserve fund. The state has required a minimum reserve fund of about 3% of operating budget. Many districts had more than that, including DJUSD. Some of that reserve money is restricted by state law to be spent specifically on certain things. The state has loosened most of those restrictions in this downturn. On top of that, some districts (including DJUSD) chose to build an even bigger reserve fund of general fund money. That strategy has helped districts to get through past milder downturns. The problem with the current downturn is that it is the worst since the Great Depression, and reserve funds haven’t been enough to get through.

  9. DT Businessman

    ERM, many thanks for taking a crack at framing the pros and cons. Given the facts, I urge all to consider what is in our collective self interests. For example, is having a less educated next generation as payback for the Christian firing in our collective self interest? Honestly, I don’t think the Christian matter is at all relevant. Indeed, it’s a distraction when considering Measure A. The Christian firing is, however, relevant when considering the competence of the school administration/board. For the record, I have no position on the Christian firing, not knowing the relevant facts.

    ERM, I do not know how the DJUSD creates a long-term, fiscally sustainable financing source and budget. I am not sufficiently versed in the details of the DJUSD budget. But I do know how I would approach the matter if the DJUSD were a business and I were the CEO. The first action I would take is to buy time until I could figure out and solve the structural budget and financing issues. Hence my endorsement of Measure A. I sure as heck wouldn’t want to see my business further derailed by losing customers and potentially losing some of my best employees, i.e. younger teachers, while I was trying to get things back on track.

    RR, I did not say we have a spending problem. I said I do not know. However, if we did have a spending problem, I would still endorse Measure A, a short term measure, due to the reason stated immediately above, i.e. time. Don says he has already informed himself and has concluded that spending cuts are counterproductive, therefore, passing Measure A is still necessity. You, on the other hand, may have already identified all the actions that need to be implemented and are convinced said actions can be implemented rapidly in which case you wouldn’t need to buy time. Already knowing which actions need to be taken AND being convinced they can be implemented rapidly seems unlikely. Therefore, it seems logical that passage of Measure A is a necessity. Unfortunately, emotion is likely to play a far larger role in this debate than logic (as has been demonstrated in some other public forums).

  10. Don Shor

    Let me say that I didn’t independently sit down and read all the DJUSD budget issues. I don’t want anyone to think I’m an expert on school district financing. I was on the business advisory committee for the previous superintendent, and budget review was an ongoing agenda item. I also became somewhat familiar with budget issues when I was on the DSIS Site Council for a couple of years while my kids were at that school. You could acquaint yourself with the budget by reading the resources at the link the district provides, but school financing is complex and it is much easier to understand if you are guided through it.

    I think further cuts would significantly reduce the quality of education. I don’t think there is a lot of waste in the district. Without this tax measure class sizes will increase, many course offerings will likely be lost, counseling staff will be further reduced. I don’t think teacher pay should be reduced, though I think it may be necessary to forego (again) COLA’s and perhaps step increases. I haven’t kept up with it, so I don’t know how many years that will be, now, that teachers have gone without COLA’s. I don’t think the purpose of this tax should be to raise teacher pay, and it would be great to have a clear statement from the union that they understand the purpose is to retain teachers and programs.

    When the advisory committee was active, we were told the state was probably going to provide some flexibility about the use of some funds, but a lot of them are encumbered in various ways (special ed, for example, would be unaffected so far as I know). I don’t know if the district was given greater flexibility, and it would be useful to have that information. But having more flexibility over a reduced amount of money is only helpful up to a point.

    I commend the board for having acknowledged the public unease about the first tax proposal and shortening up the duration of this. This is not an easy sell, even in Davis. Nevertheless, even though I no longer have children in the schools locally, and would have to pay this tax even though I don’t live here, I support the increase. This time.

  11. wdf1

    [i] I don’t know if the district was given greater flexibility, and it would be useful to have that information. But having more flexibility over a reduced amount of money is only helpful up to a point.[/i]

    The district did get flexibility over the use of categorical funds (they were legally restricted from being spent on other things, before). It was called “categorical flexibility” in school budget parlance. I think next year’s budget uses up just about all of that money. Money that would have gone to buying textbooks in future years, for instance. All districts in California were given this flexibility.

  12. hpierce

    [quote]I don’t think there is a lot of waste in the district. [/quote]Ok… you seem to echo a lot of contributers to this forum… I respect that… compared to DJUSD, do you think there is a lot of waste @ City, State, &/or UC/CSUS levels? Given what other entities have had to give up, has DJUSD met their proportional share?
    [quote]I think it may be necessary to forego (again) COLA’s and perhaps step increases. [/quote]Ok… so at this point, step increases [20+/-range are still in play for ‘younger’ teachers/](each step is ~ 2.5 %, independent of COLA’s)? Many public employees max at @ 5% increase per year for 4 years, IF they were hired at lowest step (absent COLA’s).
    DTA has already announced their “desire” (“sunshine”?) to reverse this fiscal year furloughs (~2.5%). Their leader wants input on how the new funds, if approved by voters, will be spent. Are the “safe” teachers willing to make sure that the younger ones are spared layoffs, even if that means more furlough days (actually, same as this FY or more) to make this “pencil out”?
    Our household, which has seen a 20+% decline in income in the past year, will be thinking long and hard before voting to approve the increase, given the position of the teachers’ representative to date.

  13. Don Shor

    You probably have more information about the current state of contract negotiating postures than others here. Certainly there is nothing wrong with asking the union leaders for more clarity on that. They are probably reluctant to take any public position on specifics, but maybe David or someone could interview union leaders so we aren’t just dealing with hearsay.
    Here is the budget trend: [url]http://www.districtdollars.org/budget[/url]
    I understand your skepticism. Many households (mine included) have seen similar declines in income due to the recession. I think that people on this thread are framing the issues well. I hope those who advocate for this tax will be forthcoming in answering your concerns. They have to earn this vote.

  14. David M. Greenwald

    “If we have a spending problem, and not a revenue problem, why would you want to add to the revenues? Wouldn’t you make adjustments on the spending side of the equation if you believed that was where the problem lied? “

    I see no evidence that this is a spending problem. Spending has decreased since 2007 but revenues have decreased a lot faster.

  15. DT Businessman

    hpierce has put his/her finger on an ironic aspect of the Measure A campaign. The school board, the DTA, and supporters have done a number of things to incite opposition, instead of generating support. It makes me wonder about their leadership. The way the school board initially drafted the Measure certainly resulted in an own goal. And the DTA endorsement sounded entirely self-serving and inauthentic. I don’t have the Enterprise article in front of me, but my reaction as I read it was that it would likely provoke opposition instead of support. The leadership has been pretty busy the last couple of months irritating various interest groups, instead of rallying support. They need to get their act together rapidly, craft a persuasive message, and stay on message otherwise they are going to blow it big time.

  16. wdf1

    DTB: DTA is in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario. You can say that DTA’s endorsement is self-serving. On the other hand, if DTA didn’t endorse, then they might also appear unappreciative of the community who has passed these measures in the past or uncaring about the currently affected teachers. If you’re a teacher who just received a pink slip notice, you might think that the DTA is unconcerned with your job situation next year if they didn’t endorse. Between those two scenarios, overall it is probably better to endorse, in spite of whatever cynicism might be conjured up.

  17. DT Businessman

    wdf1, I didn’t mean to suggest that they shouldn’t have endorsed Measure A. It was the content of the endorsement. You just can’t barf out a self serving endorsement and pretend it’s not self serving hoping no one will notice. In fact, that’s an overall criticism I have of their position. There’s nothing wrong with doing something self-serving if your narrow interests are in alignment with the general interest of the community. Things become problematic when those interests aren’t in alignment, substantively or appearance only.

  18. Ryan Kelly

    I’m afraid that this new tax increase will be the new “floor” for tax funding of our schools. I don’t see that the district will be prepared to lose the funding at the end of two years. As someone who does not have a child in the district and whose extended family has not been well-served in the past, I am not inclined to vote for it. From personal experience, high test scores are not the result of a well-funded program, but rather reflect the intelligence of the child combined with the efforts of the parents. Davis has plenty of children with these characteristics. Place DHS somewhere else, even with its extra funding, with a greater at-risk student population and it would not measure up.

  19. wdf1

    [i]but rather reflect the intelligence of the child combined with the efforts of the parents.[/i]

    And perhaps the desire and ability of parents to move to a school district that has an appealing program. If Davis schools don’t hold up well, then you can buy more house with less money in Sacramento and maybe send your kids to a private school.

  20. wdf1

    [i]From personal experience, high test scores are not the result of a well-funded program, but rather reflect the intelligence of the child combined with the efforts of the parents. Davis has plenty of children with these characteristics.[/i]

    That may be, but from doing volunteer work with the Bridge Foundation project in Davis (working with “at risk” students, many coming from Spanish speaking households), I think the statement above oversells the aptitude of the Davis student population just a bit. Almost 20% of students are on free & reduced lunch; 10% are English language learners. This is a student population that has some challenges.

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