Commentary: What DJUSD Has Done For Us

schoolThe Business Community: Chamber and DDBA Step Up And Support Quality Education in Our Community

Everyone has their own unique stories.  They have their own lives and priorities.  What I can say on these pages is what DJUSD has done for us in the short time that we have been the “parents” of a special-needs kid.

For most of my time here in Davis, I had no kids in school, though it has always been my goal to have kids.  Last year we went from zero kids to three (twice), in a most unconventional way.  Suddenly we were “parents” of two school-aged kids, one of whom has very serious learning disabilities and emotional problems.

I had always heard that Davis is the school system for the elite – the great students do well, but the special needs kids are left behind.  Perhaps that is true later on, and of that I cannot speak from personal experience. What I can say is that the help and support we have received at Patwin Elementary is nothing short of amazing.

I will fully admit I was not prepared for the magnitude of difficulties that lay ahead for us.  Those of you who know our nephew know him as a kind and outgoing kid.  He is very sweet most of the time.  But buried not so deeply is a troubled kid, from a troubled background, that we are trying to save.

Our first Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting was a real eye-opener.  First, I just had no idea the magnitude of the problems.  Second, I had no idea the magnitude of the support that this school district offers to kids like my nephew.

Here we were in the early morning hours and I was sitting in a room with a school counselor, a psychologist, a resource specialist, a para-educator, his teacher and his principal, and they were all there working as a team to try to figure out the best way to help my nephew succeed in school.

If funding goes away this March, half of those positions disappear.

You may ask yourself, do we really need a school counselor – by the way, one who covers not just one school but many?  Or you may ask whether we really need a school psychologist.  Again, a position that serves many.

Many school districts have done away with those positions, seeing them as expendable, as they did with music, art, librarians, seven-period days, and a whole host of other things that make our school district special.

At the same time, the county has had to cut funding for social services, in particular mental health services, because funding from the state has dried up.

There are many kids who come from disadvantaged backgrounds in Davis.  Those kids only have a chance because of the programs that DJUSD still values.

There are few certainties in life.  But one thing I do know is that kids like my nephew would have no chance at a normal life without these kinds of programs that remain in place.

If you think that psychologists do not belong in school, you have to understand that in real life there are no neat compartments where we can separate one thing from another.  My nephew clearly has learning disabilities, but one of the biggest problems he has is that when he gets frustrated at anything he completely shuts down.  When he’s shut down he cannot learn.

He has made tremendous progress in a lot of respects in his first year and a half in Davis.  But it is slow progress.  If his support is cut, he could regress.

This is not just about the kids like my nephew, of course, but it does illustrate why Davis is still special despite the challenges of our time.

Don’t just take our word for it.  A county worker that was working at Patwin to help our nephew remarked to us last year how amazing it is to work with Davis schools where the teachers and support staff and everyone are working together toward one goal – helping the child.

She deals with a lot of schools in the county, and most of them lack that commitment.  I cannot imagine having survived this past year and a half without the supportive and caring people at that school.

How this community will survive a $10 million hit to the schools budget,  I just do not know. That is what it is facing.

The worst part is that there are so many communities that have no other choice, they have to get rid of these programs and when they do, they are condemning large numbers of kids to lives of trouble and crime.

Think about it, it costs us about $8000 per year per student to educate our youth.  It costs $50,000 per year per inmate to incarcerate them.

Luckily, we have a community that understands the importance of education.  This is a community that has stepped up every time it has been asked to do so.  In 2007, 2008 and 2011 it passed parcel tax measures to keep funding these vital programs.

And it has a business community that, unlike many, understands the need for a well-educated workforce.

On Sunday we reported the endorsement of the Davis Chamber of Commerce.

In a press release the Chamber stated: “The Chamber is a membership organization whose mission is to promote, support and advocate the general economic vitality of its membership and the quality of life for the community.”

“An economically competitive community needs a strong public school system to educate and develop the skills of its future workforce and leadership,” the release continued.  “The Chamber strives to support and improve the quality of K-12 public education, community colleges and UC Davis by strengthening the communications between local schools, UC Davis, other higher education institutions and the local business community.”

Now the Downtown Business Association has stepped forward to endorse as well, voting unanimously to endorse Measure C.

Michael Bisch, co-president of the DDBA, said he hopes Davis voters can rise above the misinformation of the Measure C debate and help pass the tax.

“There are those who would pit individuals with children against those without, seniors against young families, teachers against other types of wage-earners,” Michael Bisch said in a news release. “These arguments are entirely beside the point.

“It is critical that each generation, out of its own self-interest, educate each successive generation to the highest level possible to ensure its own well-being.”

Stewart Savage, co-director of the DDBA added, “Our schools are one of the many things that make Davis a desirable place to live and raise a family.”

The business community understands that without a well-educated workforce, they will have trouble finding the kinds of qualified employees they need to run their businesses effectively.

Ballots have already arrived, the voters now have to decide if these are reason enough to support a renewal of their parcel taxes, or if their own concerns about the process or the system or the cost of the tax makes it personally not in their best interest to do so.

—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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33 Comments

  1. E Roberts Musser

    I hope your experience with Davis schools continues to be so positive. I had three children go through Davis schools, and by the time they got out the other end, I was never so glad to see them move on to college and away from the public school system. (Note: I also had serious problems in the VA schools system as well.) Everyone keeps telling me things are so much better now than when my kids were in school. For everyone’s sake, I hope that is true, but I have my doubts. Nevertheless, with the state drastically cutting funding, I don’t see that voting against Measure C is going to help anything.

    DMG, talk to me about the schools after your kids have been there a while, especially as they go through junior and senior high, where more of the serious problems happened for my children (altho they had their share of problems even in the elementary schools)…

  2. 91 Octane

    If the vanguard wants to support the tax fine, then support it. If you don’t want to oppose the tax because you don’t want teacher layoffs, then support it for that reason. But don’t kid yourself into believing DJUSD should get it because they actually deserve a red cent for a job well done. DJUSD built one too many schools and screwed valley oak over, and they should not be forgiven, nor forgotten for that abysmal decision.

  3. rusty49

    I like what Dunning said in his article the other day.

    “Those of us who plan to vote in favor of Measure C are in effect signing a contract to provide $320 a year to the Davis schools … still, if Measure C fails, there is absolutely nothing to prevent every single one of us who voted “Yes” from going ahead and donating $320 a year to the schools … for sure, we don’t have to, but if we voted “Yes,” we certainly planned to, so why not come across with the cash anyway? …
    Obviously, even if all “Yes” voters accept this plan, it will still bring in far fewer dollars than if Measure C passes, but the amount raised would not be insignificant if people take this pledge seriously … many people, no doubt, have already contributed far more than $320 to the schools …”

    Heck, if all of the “yes” voters, which I’m sure will still be very close to 2/3 if they lose, kick it up to let’s say $500 then maybe there’s no shortfall at all. So why all of the worry?

  4. Don Shor

    The IEP is an amazing tool, and it stays in force through the student’s entire K-12 career. The special ed staff is outstanding at DJUSD. Probably elsewhere also, but I can only speak to our experience here. Counselors and psychologists are important. And to those who say that the local schools are geared toward the higher achievers, I would reply that those two positions are most important to the students who are struggling.

  5. Mr.Toad

    Because lots of people will say they will donate and in fact Davis schools panhandled $1.7 a few years back with some people giving tens of thousands and we still didn’t raise as much as a formalized system of taxation will. So why all the worry? Because the 2/3 rule gives a veto to the minority so as you gleefully pointed out the other day it takes 4 yes votes to match your families 2 no votes. So why all the worry? Because the quality of education including that of my own children is at stake. So why all the worry? Because good people will lose their jobs. So before you spout off all smug maybe you ought to think about how other people feel about the consequences of your no vote.

    But I’ll tell you what Rusty let us both donate $320 to the Davis schools before the vote is closed. We will have David Greenwald cover the story. Just tell me the time you want to be at the district office with the check and I’ll match your $320.

  6. rusty49

    Toad, I’ve already said I’m a no vote, so why would I want to donate $320. The point is, as Dunning pointed out, that all of you yes voters are in essence signing a contract so even if it goes down there’s no reason that you all can’t ante up. So get yer checkbook out Toad, either way.

  7. Mr.Toad

    Gate kids struggle too, they often struggle with boredom, they might have drug abuse problems, they might have emotional issues or problems adjusting socially.

    It doesn’t matter all kids have needs. The more well trained adults there are the greater the chance that each child will find someone who can reach them making sure that their needs are met so they can learn. Oddly enough for me it was a school nurse that I was an office assistant for in middle school. Now you don’t hear about the school nurses that much but these people have been cut to the bone since the recession and the result is that kids with serious health issue are slipping through the cracks.

    Vote yes on C.

  8. Mr.Toad

    “DJUSD built one too many schools and screwed valley oak over, and they should not be forgiven, nor forgotten for that abysmal decision.”

    So let’s punish the kids for mistakes that were made by people who are no longer here?

  9. rusty49

    I just found this:

    “The IRS allows you to claim a deduction for the donations you make to qualified organizations. These organizations include more than just charities and will include any school district program that does not operate for profit and is solely supported by state and local governments.”

    So donations are the way to go for all of you “yes” voters as it will be tax deductible because you won’t be able to deduct these taxes off of your parcel tax. So in my opinion the smart thing to do would be to vote down the measure and then all of you can donate more and maybe get the difference back on your taxes.

  10. Mr.Toad

    Put up or shut up. Its one thing to vote no its another to vote no and then tell other people what they should do with their money because you don’t want to pay. At least Dunning has the class to say he is a yes before he tells others what they should do with their money if the tyranny of the minority prevails.

  11. rusty49

    “Put up or shut up. Its one thing to vote no its another to vote no and then tell other people what they should do with their money because you don’t want to pay.”

    Toad, aren’t you trying to tell me what I have to do with my money with your “yes” vote. Sorry Toad, I’m allowed a different opinion than you on the Measure, that’s why we’re having an election.

  12. Mr.Toad

    In an election, as a society we decide what we are going to in aggregate. As an individual I never tell others what they should do with their money, it is so crass, especially if i tell others to do something that I am not willing to do myself. I apologize I should have said it this way, as my father told me when I was a young man,”Put up or shut up.”

  13. hpierce

    [quote]Its one thing to vote no its another to vote [s]no[/s] [i]”YES”[/i] and [s]then[/s] tell other people what they should do with their money because you don’t want to pay [i]WHAT IS NEEDED WITHOUT OTHERS’ CONTRIBUTIONS[/i].[/quote]I’m still undecided on this vote. Yet, with the Senior exemption, people do indeed get to say what other people have to contribute, even tho’ they (Seniors) can choose not to.

  14. Dr. Wu

    [quote]Heck, if all of the “yes” voters, which I’m sure will still be very close to 2/3 if they lose, kick it up to let’s say $500 then maybe there’s no shortfall at all. So why all of the worry?
    [/quote]

    Economists have a term for the problem: the free rider problem. One person’s contribution makes little difference but if everyone commits it does make a difference–so they are not the same contract.

  15. Mr.Toad

    Dear H Pierce, please support the education of the children of Davis. No votes are twice as hard to overcome so please don’t block the path to maintaining our great schools. Please stand with the families of Davis to make sure the children get the best education possible. Please vote yes on measure C.

  16. wdf1

    A short while ago, a friend sent me a link to this video.

    Pinocchio Outreach Concert ([url]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gh_LxFJOTE8&feature=youtu.be[/url])

    This is the sort of thing that Measure C supports. By the way, the video was put together by some DHS students. I saw the outreach concert last year that is featured in this video. It was Jack and the Beanstalk. Different Davis elementary classes were asked to draw pictures of scenes from Jack and the Beanstalk story in advance of the concert. Drawings were then collated in narrative order and projected on a screen above the orchestra while a narrator read the story.

    Because of growth in the music program, the DHS orchestra is able to put this on free of charge to Davis elementary kids during school day fieldtrip concerts. The video above advertises their Saturday public concert, which has an admission fee, $5. For many, this is their first experience in an orchestra concert setting. Witnessing these concerts inspires many young students to join the elementary music program, which eventually feeds the orchestras that produce future outreach concerts. If there is no elementary music program, then the future roots for this kind of activity are cut.

  17. Adam Smith

    Any Davis homeowner interested in maintaining their home value should realize that $320/yr is a very small investment to make compared to the erosion in values that will occur over time if the Davis school system is perceived to be only “average”.

  18. David M. Greenwald

    The problem with voluntary taxation is that people’s contributions individually are not very noticeable. Moreover, people benefit from others contributions even if they don’t. The benefit is therefore not excludable. Furthermore people in the past whose kids went through school have already benefited from Davis’ excellent schools. There is no doubt if this fails, there will be a fundraising drive by DSF, there is also no doubt that even with a few very generous contributions, it will fall well short of the $6.5 million that this tax measure would raise. Voluntary taxation sounds good, but it will collapse under free rider problems.

  19. JustSaying

    The Davis school district continues to do an exceptional job of educating our kids–and increasing numbers of outside students who make the job more difficult but whose presence means more state funds. Whether it’s meeting special education mandates, providing liberal arts opportunities that might not even be offered any more in other districts or just making sure students finish school with the hard-core accomplished.

    We’ve wasted millions here and billions there on all sorts of national and local misadventures, so what’s the big deal about spending on our schools? Adam Smith points out one selfish benefit. We also benefit at all kinds of other levels from having universal education.

    Prop 13 misdirected our attention and, while we looking the other way, ruined many of our institutions. Now that our regular school funding is so tentative as a result of this and well-meaning court rulings, let’s just pay up and shut up.

  20. rusty49

    “increasing numbers of outside students who make the job more difficult but whose presence means more state funds.”

    Has anyone considered how these outside students coming to Davis have hurt the funding of their hometown schools? I’m sure Woodland, Dixon, Winters and West Sac would love to keep the funds at home.

  21. Don Shor

    Since the ADA funding is based on the cost of educating the student, it would be difficult for the district of residence to make a claim to funding for a student who is exiting the district. Interdistrict transfers are granted first by the home district, and it is a routine practice.

  22. wdf1

    I understand that home districts used to be more relaxed about letting resident students go to other districts, but in recent years have been tighter on granting students transfers. Apparently the typical exception that is granted is if a parent works in that other district. There was an article on this issue in a local paper 2-3 years ago.

  23. Mr.Toad

    “Has anyone considered how these outside students coming to Davis have hurt the funding of their hometown schools?”

    A more interesting question is how has resistance to growth impacted our school. With the large price differential a family can save lots of money moving to Woodland and still afford a private school for their kids on the money they save. I have friends who did just that sending their kids to St James. While both parents are UCD grads who own businesses in Davis and would have preferred to have bought here but the economics didn’t pencil out. As he said to me “our lives are in Davis we just sleep in Woodland.” Two less students for DJUSD. Talk about a failure of rational planning!

  24. medwoman

    ERM

    “DMG, talk to me about the schools after your kids have been there a while, especially as they go through junior and senior high, where more of the serious problems happened for my children (altho they had their share of problems even in the elementary schools)…”

    I know that you issued your invitation to David, but I would like to respond. Both of my kids excelled in North Davis Elementary. Junior high was not so good and getting the special help needed for my son was challenging and I underestimated his problems and was not persistent enough to head off trouble in the form of depression. I do not blame the school for this as he was not a troublemaker and therefore escaped detection.
    The situation worsened during high school. I frankly attribute the staff of DaVinci with not only getting my son through high school and helping him develope the motivation and self confidence to succeed in college but quite literally with saving his life. One of his contemporaries at DHS was not so fortunate. I cannot help but feel that if we are so short sighted as to cut back on our support for our schools, more children are going to fall through the cracks in our already fragile societal support system.

  25. JustSaying

    “I understand that home districts used to be more relaxed about letting resident students go to other districts, but in recent years have been tighter on granting students transfers. Apparently the typical exception that is granted is if a parent works in that other district. There was an article on this issue in a local paper 2-3 years ago.”

    wdf1, maybe I missed something, but I’d thought the “receiving” school got to make the call. Maybe both have to agree?

    Anyway, it’s my understanding that we’ve gone from almost none of these “outside” students to lots, all because our declining student-age population has put the district in a bind. So, it’s strictly a financial consideration to open our school doors to anyone even though increases the workload all around.

    But, potentially losing district has the ability to shut down the exodus?

  26. Don Shor

    When we applied annually for interdistrict transfers, the first step was to apply to the district we were leaving. In the 1990s there were 100+ interdistrict students in DJUSD. Then due to overcrowded schools the district tried to throw us all out. State law was not really on their side, but most left. A few of us appealed to the county board of education which oversees the districts, and a couple of us won on appeal.
    The losing district has the ability to reject the application, but they’d have to have cause. There is education code on the subject, and at one time I was pretty conversant with it.

  27. hpierce

    As I understand it, students who reside outside the district (not in DJUSD school district) bring their ADA allotment with them… the balance of costs not covered by the State ADA reimbursements, are subsidized by the district taxpayers… not sure how “fair” that is…

  28. Don Shor

    Yes, hpierce, and those of us who are non-resident property owners pay taxes for the schools here. Not sure how “fair” that is, either. But it was cited by a couple of the county board members in approving our appeal.

  29. David M. Greenwald

    “DMG, talk to me about the schools after your kids have been there a while, especially as they go through junior and senior high”

    Elaine: I did make that point clear. Although I also believe the district is better than it was when your kids were in school.

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