Harris’ Move Shifts the School District’s Paradigm

Harris-RichardThe writing was on the wall last week, the Davis School Board was not going to put the restoration of this year’s cuts on the ballot.

There were good and solid reasons laid out by Gina Daleiden last week for not attempting to restore the cuts from last year, resulting in a net 50-position cut.

For one thing, teachers last year declined to take concessions.  The idea of asking the community to sacrifice where the teachers did not would have been a difficult political sell.

What should be very clear, however, is that without Richard Harris’ decision not to run for re-election and to push the district for another parcel tax, this would not have been on the table.  Certainly not in November.

The voters will be asked to do two things at once.  First, they will be asked to renew Measure A which was billed as a one-time emergency parcel tax, that voters narrowly approved in May of last year.

Second, the voters will be asked to buffer the district against what could be disastrous trigger cuts if the state does not pass the governor’s tax measure.

Measure A accounts for $3.2 million.  The trigger cuts would cost the district $3.5 million.

If the governor’s tax measure fails, taxpayers would be paying a maximum $446 for the new parcel tax.  If it passes, that number will be $204 – the exact amount is today.

What happens if the measure does not pass and the governor’s tax measure fails?  Superintendent Winfred Roberson laid out this scenario to the Vanguard when we met a few weeks ago.

Last year as the result of a $3.5 million shortfall, the district eliminated 42 teachers and nine paraeducators.  That number will be over 100 if the district ends up losing the $7.5 million that it could lose.

As it stands now, the schools have lost $12 million per year in state funding since 2007.

Cutting that many teachers will increase class size, lead to the loss of seven periods at the junior high and high school level, reduce the number of courses offered, and reduce vice principals.

In addition to 50 layoffs, the district laid off junior high vice principals and counselors at the secondary level.  That will put at-risk kids at greater risk as the district will have fewer resources to provide them.

Some of these cuts will be restored through the Davis School Foundation that has already raised more than $250,000 in a $500,000 fundraising campaign.

Voters will rightly question renewing Measure A, which was supposed to be an emergency measure.

Last week, Gina Daleiden addressed this concern.

“Sheila [Allen] and I spent awhile saying that was an emergency parcel tax,” she said.  “That was absolutely what I believed at the time.  Things have only gotten worse.  It’s almost unpredictably worse.   If we’re going to say, look, game has changed, we have new information and our first job is to protect the school district as best we can, then I’m willing to talk about continuing what you are already paying to bridge us through some additional time.”

Sheila Allen said “I swear when I was doing Measure A, I was very clear, two years emergency funding.  The fact is, the emergency has not gone away.  That’s the problem.”

Sue Lovenburg added, “It has actually increased.”

As Richard Harris said this week: “It’s still an emergency.”

Superintendent Roberson added, “It’s not easy to ask for money. But we need money in order to educate children. And we’ve already seen significant reductions from the state.”

Richard Harris posted a comment on Facebook following his colleague’s unanimous vote.

“My colleagues voted for the children of Davis tonight and approved my proposal to put on the November ballot a local tax plan that will ONLY be triggered if the statewide tax initiative fails and drastic cuts are imposed on local school districts,” he wrote.

He added, “This is the FIRST local safety net to be proposed and placed before the voters since the statewide tax qualified for the ballot. The action tonight was not exactly what I proposed but as the great political policy philosopher Mick Jagger said “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you might just get what you need!””

But it was more than that.

Prior to Mr. Harris’ surprise announcement there were no plans for a parcel tax.  As we know, the timeline for putting a measure on the ballot is very tight.  The discussion last week emerged only because Richard Harris raised the issue.

They would have the option of course, in the fall, to put the matter on spring ballot.  They would in that case respond to the loss of state money.  This is a more proactive approach and it avoids the pitfalls of a low turnout special election.

The fact is, this is an emergency.  An emergency at the level that we have never seen before in this community.

There are those who believe this should be handled at the state level – that the state has the obligation to fund all of education.  There can be little doubt that there is a good amount of validity to that belief.

Unfortunately, given the dysfunction in Sacramento, the inability for get beyond petty partisan difference and reach consensus-based governance, waiting for the state to act properly could means devastating impacts locally.

Let the residents of this community decide how much value we have for sustaining our current levels of education.  If two-thirds of them agree, we go forward.  If not, this district is going to look very different next year.

—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.

Related posts

42 Comments

  1. hpierce

    I, for one, have serious issues with the proposed measure. Leaving out how the final language will assure that the new component won’t go into place unless the state measure fails, for the moment, I’m concerned with the equity of the new component, and the apparent tactics the district is using to assure passage.

    In the event the state measure fails, SF assessments to ‘protect the schools’ will more than double… for some. They would remain at $20/mo for multifamily units. Parents with school kids don’t live in multi-family housing? I see no reason why my assessment should more than double, by ~ $20/mo, while multi-family rates remain static. If MF rates were to be more than doubled, that’s only ~ $2/mo. For parents living in MF units, that is nothing. For college students, that’s not even a friday night’s beer money (assuming they only have one beer a month).

    I can only conclude that the MF rate is already artificially low, and will remain unchanged, so the District can sell voters in MF units, and seniors in SF) that they can protect/improve the schools at no cost to themselves. SF owners who are seniors or SSI recipients could get exemptions, so why wouldn’t they vote to assess others, in order to “do the right thing” for the community. I oppose the apparent strategy on both a practical and philosophical basis.

    .

  2. David M. Greenwald

    “In the event the state measure fails, SF assessments to ‘protect the schools’ will more than double… for some. “

    This is not a true statement. If the state measure fails, the assessments would go from $640 to $880 I believe rounding off. That’s about a 33% raise. If the state measure passes, the rates would remain the same.

  3. hpierce

    Choose you figures the way I did. The “temporary” assessment that wouls otherwise expire in June, is what is on the table. If you want to play with numbers, let me add all the assessments we pay for capital improvements and replacements over the years, that we have paid, but our children did not benefit from (that many parents with young children do, but their homes had much lower assessments, based on when their housing was built). If we do use those #’s, you are correct, it is not nearly a doubling. However, as I understood it, this article is about the single measure under consideration,that will go from an assessment of ~ $204, and will add ~ $244 to that.

    Are you in charge of “spin” for the District?

    I assume you are conceding my equity point, however.

  4. SODA

    David. How did you get $880? I think it is important to show ALL the school parcel taxes and not just the new?
    Who proposed the language of the trigger? As a compromise to Richard’s?

  5. David M. Greenwald

    I’m sorry I’m off by $100.

    Here are the numbers:

    Measure C: $320
    Measure A: $204

    Total now: $524

    If new Measure passes and Governor Tax Fails

    Measure C: $320
    Measure New: $446

    Total then: $766

    “Are you in charge of “spin” for the District? “

    That’s a rude comment, I was attempting to lay out the facts.

  6. hpierce

    When the topic is one measure, Measure A, I stand by my statements. You asserting that no, we need to look at all the voter approved measures and NOT the CFD ones, I assert that you are “spinning” numbers, to say I’m wrong and you are right. I would say THAT is rude. However, it was not my intention to be rude… should have had that second cup of coffee, relaxed, not been so defensive. You COULD have acknowledged that I was correct, looking at measure A (the topic at hand), but that you felt that the aggregate of the voter-approved assessments. I most likely would not taken issue with that approach. You chose to say I had my facts wrong (on Measure A). I don’t believe I did.

  7. Michael Harrington

    Harris is brilliant with his plan. And it’s all about love for the kids, and respect for the professionals working in our district who need and deserve job stability paid for by the community.

    Now, get that premature, ill-conceived water project off the November ballot and give the school parcel tax its best shot. For the kids.

  8. hpierce

    Actually, Mr Harrington, there is no reason I can see why we shouldn’t reverse strategy, have the water vote this fall, and the schools measure as a spring, all-mail ballot.

  9. David M. Greenwald

    I disagree with Mr. Harrington on this point, I think the city needs to figure out its best water plan and move forward. The city does not owe the school district a free ballot in November at this point. In fact, HPIERCE is correct on this point, the school district does not have to have it on the November ballot, depending on which option the city goes with, they may.

  10. hpierce

    Another advantage of placing the school’s measure on a spring ballot, we will know the outcome of the statewide measure. By removing the “if”, I think that the Measure A extension/augmentation may actually have a better chance of passage. It removes the ambiguity of the so-called “trigger-trigger”.

  11. JustSaying

    [quote]“What should be very clear however is that without Richard Harris’ decision not to run for reelection and to push the district for another parcel tax, this would not have been on the table.”[/quote]This doesn’t make sense. Harris’ “dramatic announcement” to retire and devote his time to a massive parcel tax was dramatic. But, to say it’s the reason for the decision suggests one of two things: 1.) the districts doesn’t need the money or 2.) the other board members wouldn’t have come up with the idea (and Harris, himself, wouldn’t have either) in the course of their deliberations.

    Harris’ original drama didn’t do the rest of his colleagues any favors since it provided people with reasons not to support yet another parcel tax vote. It’ll be interesting to see how he spends his time now that all of them have come to a rational decision.

  12. David M. Greenwald

    JustSaying: It does make sense… Harris put the parcel tax on the agenda for last week, without that they would not have had time to put one on the November ballot and none was contemplated.

  13. David M. Greenwald


    Harris’ original drama didn’t do the rest of his colleagues any favors since it provided people with reasons not to support yet another parcel tax vote.”

    Only the people inclined not support it. And because he proposed a more sweeping parcel tax and the board reduced it, they can take the approach that they are taking a middle ground.

  14. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Prior to Mr. Harris’ surprise announcement there were no plans for a parcel tax. As we know, the timeline for putting a measure on the ballot is very tight. The discussion last week emerged only because Richard Harris raised the issue.[/quote]

    I have a hard time believing Harris was the only one on the school board thinking about this parcel tax. If that is true, that would be essentially implying School Board incompetence…

  15. David M. Greenwald

    Whether you have a hard time or not, there are facts here. The discussion of a parcel tax was on the agenda until Harris put it there. However, as I state again, they could have had this discussion in the fall and put it on the ballot for the spring.

  16. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Whether you have a hard time or not, there are facts here. The discussion of a parcel tax was on the agenda until Harris put it there. However, as I state again, they could have had this discussion in the fall and put it on the ballot for the spring.[/quote]

    In other words it is highly unlikely other school board members were not thinking about instituting another emergency parcel tax. And it does make more sense to put it on the ballot [i][b]after[/b][/i] it is known whether Gov. Brown’s tax measures will pass…

  17. Michael Harrington

    Mr. Greenwald: there is no way the City is going to be ready for a November ballot on the water project. Your comments above suggest you think the City will be

  18. JustSaying

    [quote]“JustSaying: It does make sense… Harris put the parcel tax on the agenda for last week, without that they would not have had time to put one on the November ballot and none was contemplated….And because he proposed a more sweeping parcel tax and the board reduced it, they can take the approach that they are taking a middle ground.”[/quote]That dang school board. What a conspiracy. Almost like the earlier one to get a “small” one approved, then dramatically announce a giant one.

    You may be correct that Harris is the only one on the school board with courage and the brains to see the need for another parcel tax in case the state fails. By trumpeting his intention to quit the board and lead an unreasonable plan, he forced the rest of the ignorant board members into action and, at the same time, provided them cover. But, are you sure that the others aren’t really the masterminds behind this and paid him to take the heat by announcing it once they found out he was quitting?

  19. JustSaying

    [quote]“Whether you have a hard time or not, there are facts here.”[/quote]There [u]are[/u] facts here. And there are [u]opinions[/u] here. The same facts can result in different opinions, of which everyone has one.

  20. David M. Greenwald

    “In other words it is highly unlikely other school board members were not thinking about instituting another emergency parcel tax. “

    If you actually read my article you can see both Sheila and Gina were thinking about it. But had Harris not acted, this would not be on the ballot in November. And both Sheila and Gina were only thinking renew Measure A rather than adding the trigger cuts.

  21. David M. Greenwald

    [quote]Mr. Greenwald: there is no way the City is going to be ready for a November ballot on the water project. Your comments above suggest you think the City will be[/quote]

    If the city is not ready for a ballot, then we will know in August and they will have to likely look elsewhere for a partner than Woodland. It may be that is what happens, I think it is likely that you are correct, but it’s not for certain just yet.

  22. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]There are facts here. And there are opinions here. The same facts can result in different opinions, of which everyone has one.[/quote]

    LOL Nicely said!

  23. rusty49

    It’s time to send a message to the School Board and that message is “NO”. They’re going to keep coming at us with higher and higher tax measure proposals until we say no.

  24. Ryan Kelly

    So an emergency tax for two years is destined to become permanent. I understand that things aren’t any better and people are likely to be inclined to vote to renew it. But why vote on a trigger tax? Why not wait until Spring when we know that the trigger cuts are being implemented? Voters need the whole picture. Utility increases, parks and rec, increases in fees, school taxes. I find Mike Harrington’s posts to be disingenuous. he will do anything to delay a decision on the water project. Kids will receive an education even with cuts in programming. Maybe they will have more time to play if every minute of their day is not filled with homework, practice, etc. to make up for wasted time in the school day. There are wasted days in the school calendar – filled with movie watching, play days, parties, minimum days, unprepared substitute teachers, school trips to Amusement parks, and more. Instruction should occur every day of the 180 – 6 hour days that students are in school. Right now, it isn’t being done. If they can’t see ways to cut, then they should at least find ways to improve.

  25. wdf1

    Ryan Kelly: [i]But why vote on a trigger tax? Why not wait until Spring when we know that the trigger cuts are being implemented?[/i]

    One interesting angle: the centerpiece of Granda’s opposition to Measure C was that it was not a traditional precinct election, that it somehow wasn’t a secret ballot, and somehow an unconstitutional election. One of Tommy Randall’s points of opposition was that the school board could have run Measure C during a traditional precinct election to save money, as opposed a mail only election.

    Well, this will be a traditional precinct election, cheaper than running a mail only election, constitutionally secret (according to Granda) and of course now they rely on other arguments to oppose.

    The major parameters defining the deficit for the 2013-14 school budget are known (Measure A expiring, Governor’s tax proposal). The advantage to running it in November is that the district avoids creating a large cut list that it is required to do by certain deadlines. This has been a source of another criticism, that somehow the district is “holding jobs hostage” to pass a parcel tax.

  26. wdf1

    [quote][url]http://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/schools-news/school-board-turns-to-local-voters-again/[/url]

    Jose Granda, representing the No on School Board Taxes Political Action Committee, criticized the trustees for seeking to renew Measure A after describing it two years ago as an emergency measure.

    “It is not credible,” he said, adding that he might challenge in court the “very misleading language” in the ballot measure approved Thursday.[/quote]

    The problem with Granda’s threat to sue is that it probably gives the school board the ability to talk about the parcel tax in closed session, where matters of legal dispute. Granda’s threat to sue is credible because he has followed through in the recent past. I don’t think there is much advantage to talking about the parcel tax in closed session, but I think it’s a dumb move to be careless in comments about threats to sue.

  27. rusty49

    Comeon Ryan, once they get their claws on your wallet they never let go. There’s no such thing as a temporary or emergency tax, once it got approved they will renew and add to it into perpetuity. I agree with everything you stated, these school tax proponent enablers always try and say they’ve cut to the bone, but we know that’s untrue as your examples quite nicely point out.

  28. Michael Harrington

    Ryan : Anti-public education funding? You were hot last fall to give away hundreds of millions of precious Davis ratepayers money to a project that was sized for a huge population increase, yet here you sit advocating for a ballot combo of two local effective tax increases? Playing roulette with our kids education? Call me. I want to ask if you have kids in the DJUSD program, or do you even live in Davis, or if you make your living off the water project

    I clearly earn elsewhere. This is a volunteer effort by me. How about you? Give me a call. 530-759-8440

    Now, to finish my day off nicely, maybe your buddy Voter2012 will show up and blog?

  29. David M. Greenwald

    “But why vote on a trigger tax? Why not wait until Spring when we know that the trigger cuts are being implemented?”

    What difference does it, the trigger portion would be contingent on the governor’s tax measure.

    Why do it now? You won’t have to put x-number of district employees on layoff nitce if we do it now because we’ll know this spring if we have to lay them off or not.

  30. David M. Greenwald

    “It’s time to send a message to the School Board and that message is “NO”. “

    Except you said no last year. So you’re not sending nay different message.

  31. Ryan Kelly

    I hope everything turns out well, David. A family of 5 in a small apartment can’t be easy. I hope you figure the rising cost of City services and property taxes into your financial planning, so you are not caught flat-footed.

    @Mike Harrington- I pay Davis property taxes. I do not have any financial connection to the water project, other than being a rate payer. Again, I have never voiced my support for the water project, ever. I have only voiced my disagreement with your campaign of misinformation, personal attacks, and threats, which, in my mind, have muddied the waters ( pun intended) and have made it difficult to understand the issues involved. I now view any campaign or issue you champion as suspect and deserving of a closer look. Your endorsement is a negative, due to your irresponsible behavior with regards to the water project.

  32. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]So an emergency tax for two years is destined to become permanent. I understand that things aren’t any better and people are likely to be inclined to vote to renew it. But why vote on a trigger tax? Why not wait until Spring when we know that the trigger cuts are being implemented? Voters need the whole picture. Utility increases, parks and rec, increases in fees, school taxes. I find Mike Harrington’s posts to be disingenuous. he will do anything to delay a decision on the water project. Kids will receive an education even with cuts in programming. Maybe they will have more time to play if every minute of their day is not filled with homework, practice, etc. to make up for wasted time in the school day. There are wasted days in the school calendar – filled with movie watching, play days, parties, minimum days, unprepared substitute teachers, school trips to Amusement parks, and more. Instruction should occur every day of the 180 – 6 hour days that students are in school. Right now, it isn’t being done. If they can’t see ways to cut, then they should at least find ways to improve.[/quote]

    Nicely said!

  33. wdf1

    R. Kelly: [i]There are wasted days in the school calendar – filled with movie watching, play days, parties, minimum days, unprepared substitute teachers, school trips to Amusement parks, and more. Instruction should occur every day of the 180 – 6 hour days that students are in school. Right now, it isn’t being done.[/i]

    Did any of that go on when you were in grade school? And you think it served absolutely no purpose in your experience?

  34. Ryan Kelly

    I don’t see the purpose, if in missed hours of school instruction is merely replaced by the hours of homework currently required. I think that there is room for improvement.

  35. wdf1

    In recent years, homework time has been cut back.

    If you believe that “instruction should occur every day of the 180 – 6 hour days that students are in school,” then you probably miss the point that some social interaction with classmates and peers might be worth something.

    As a parent, I have thought the emphasis on instruction was about right for my kids. There was one third grade teacher years ago who was too light on instruction for my taste, but she is no longer in the district.

  36. Ryan Kelly

    Yes, I do think that instruction should be the focus. Parents should not have to teach the curriculum or have to resort to hiring tutors. Parents have other things to teach their children. Maybe we leave so little time for children to interact socially outside of the unnatural, and continually refereed, environment of the classroom that they are handicapped when it comes to dealing with life. There are ample opportunities for students to interact socially during instruction.

  37. wdf1

    R. Kelly: Probably an agree to disagree moment. I take it you mean 100% instruction, 100% of the time. I think small breaks from instruction once in a while to do something “fun” reduces a certain amount of student stress and ultimately makes students more productive in a learning environment. Just my observation.

  38. Ryan Kelly

    I’m not talking about breaks in the day. I’m talking about whole days wasted through unprepared subs, movie watching at the end of the semester, trips to Marine World, and all the minimum days.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for