Davis Schools and Private Sector Business Interactions: A Win-Win Scenario

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Bob Poppenga is running for DJUSD School Board
Bob Poppenga is running for DJUSD School Board

By Bob Poppenga

One significant risk for organizations like the DJUSD, which have a history of success and “leading the pack”, is a tendency to be inward looking and failing to take advantage of innovative ideas or exciting opportunities from the “outside”.   After spending over 6 months talking to a variety of Davis community leaders, parents and teachers and reading countless scientific and lay articles on the state of public education in this country and around the world, I believe that our school district is resting on its historical laurels and is not living up to its full potential.

Obviously a significant part of the challenge is inadequate state funding for public education which, in turn, translates into fewer resources to institute new programs and needed services, a failure to explore new ways of doing business, and to build, maintain, and equip facilities that meet the needs of a 21st century education. As a community, we shouldn’t be satisfied with the thought that we’re doing the best that we can be doing under current circumstances.

I have written previously about the need to break down barriers among our public and private organizations to the betterment not only of our school district, but our community as a whole (see How DJUSD Can Create Community Partnerships, Davis Vanguard, 9/24/14). Davis ranks near the top in terms of collective smarts (Luminosity’s Smartest Cities 2013), so we should be able to think creatively about how to solve problems and meet the challenges faced by our schools, despite inadequate funding.

Recently, there has been considerable discussion about how Davis can attract innovative, cutting-edge, research-oriented companies to the city, whether through development of innovation parks or by other means. The types of companies that will find Davis to be an inviting environment are likely to include those wishing to take advantage of our community’s strengths (derived from both UCD and existing companies).

Strengths include engineering, food sciences, life sciences, health sciences, agricultural sciences, and environmental sciences, among others. UCD’s effort to be a global leader in meeting future needs for safe, affordable and sustainable food supplies through its World Food Center will potentially attract a wide variety of industries to the city. One critical inducement for attracting and retaining these companies is an excellent public education system.

On the flip side, we should be thinking about what existing and future private sector companies can contribute to our schools to help them maintain their excellence and develop an outward looking, innovative culture.

The following are a few thoughts that will hopefully generate positive discussion and other creative ideas:

  • Attracting more private sector businesses will increase the funding base for our District. If one or more innovation parks were developed and fully occupied, I have been told that the increase in revenue to our schools could eventually reach several million dollars annually.  CORRECTION at 2:25 PM: ” I had originally been informed that a portion of the property taxes generated by new businesses locating to Davis would increase the revenue base to our schools. A knowledgeable person in the District contacted me to say that essentially no new revenue would be available to the District since any property taxes would be going to the State and not be passed through to the District (unless there was an unlikely increase in the valuation of the property).  In addition, due to the recent Alameda lawsuit regarding local parcel taxes, a company would not pay more in local parcel taxes than any other parcel (apartment complex, single family home) irrespective of the size of the parcel. “
  • The type of companies which the city hopes to attract will have a vested interest in good quality schools and programs and will likely contribute to our schools beyond the revenue generated by taxes.
  • The School District will have an opportunity to develop college and non-college career pathways for our students that can take advantage of the breath of talent in the community. An excellent model of what we should be doing in Davis and Yolo County currently exists in the Sacramento region. NextEd  is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote programs and policies that prepare students for 21st century jobs. It is actively engaged in STEM education, developing a region-wide system of support for “career academies” and offering students opportunities to explore career, certificate, and training pathways. In addition to engaging students, NextEd provides a mechanism through which public and private sector leaders can develop and advance a common agenda. Our District could tap in to our community’s strengths to develop similar career academies or pathways in areas mentioned above. These don’t need to be housed in stand-alone buildings, but could be part of smaller “learning communities” at existing school sites. Unique programs in robotics, food production systems, global public health, or environmental sustainability are worth exploring. Business oriented students might be able to gain practical experience by watching small start-up companies take off and grow or to gain a global business perspective from larger multinational companies.
  • High tech and research-oriented companies would attract a highly skilled workforce to the community and hopefully encourage families to settle in Davis. It would be more likely that spouses with specialized talents could find exciting work opportunities without having to commute to and from the city. This could help to reverse a projected downward trend in District K-12 student numbers.
  • While not directly related to private sector partnerships, I believe that the District and the community would benefit by aggressively pursuing grant monies.   A small “Grants Committee” composed of individuals representing the District, UCD, the City of Davis, and the private sector could help identify opportunities and support the effort. Large grants have a much better chance of being funded if granting agencies perceive there to be collaboration and a shared sense of mission among a variety of stakeholder groups.

Even though the discussion about how to grow the economic base of Davis is in its early stages, it’s not too early to have the School District engage in the dialogue. The District needs to think outside the box, cast a wide net for good ideas, and avoid the complacency that can come with prior success.

Bob Poppenga is a Professor of Clinical Veterinary Toxicology at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. He is a candidate for the DJUSD School Board.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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13 thoughts on “Davis Schools and Private Sector Business Interactions: A Win-Win Scenario”

  1. DavisAnon

    Agreed. Kudos to the Vanguard for running these articles. It’s really an embarrassment how poor the School Board election coverage has been in the Davis Enterprise. I suspect most voters are not willing to make the effort to find out the differences between candidates, and the poor coverage of the candidates in our local newspaper does a disservice to the candidates and current and future DJUSD students.

    Poppenga’s answers have been consistently strong and insightful. He and Sunder have earned my votes. I hope others feel the same as I think these two would be an excellent addition to the Board.

  2. Napoleon Pig IV

    Very thoughtful and compelling ideas and comments – with enough specificity to be put into practice. The only downside I see is that a well-educated sheep is a dangerous sheep. If we manage to create a school system that produces a whole flock of well-educated sheep, then God help the pigs!  Oink.

  3. David Greenwald

    Bob has sent a correction…

     

    CORRECTION at 2:25 PM: ” I had originally been informed that a portion of the property taxes generated by new businesses locating to Davis would increase the revenue base to our schools. A knowledgeable person in the District contacted me to say that essentially no new revenue would be available to the District since any property taxes would be going to the State and not be passed through to the District (unless there was a substantial increase in the overall property tax base of the city).  In addition, due to the recent Alameda lawsuit regarding local parcel taxes, a company would not pay more in local parcel taxes than any other parcel (apartment complex, single family home) irrespective of the size of the parcel. “

    1. Frankly

      unless there was a substantial increase in the overall property tax base of the city

      There would be.  Compare what farmland outside the city provides in local parcel tax revenue to what it would be for annexed new property containing several businesses on separate APNs.   There would be significant property tax revenue coming to the city and the schools.

      And let’s not forget the contributions that local business makes to the schools.  See Folsom for what that looks like.

      1. David Greenwald

        The school district would need to increase it’s revenue by $20 million or so for the district to get into a basic aid status and have increased revenue. Until then, the local increase is offset by a corresponding decrease in state funding.

      2. wdf1

        Poppenga: no new revenue would be available to the District since any property taxes would be going to the State and not be passed through to the District (unless there was a substantial increase in the overall property tax base of the city). 

        Frankly: There would be.

        What Poppenga is referring to here (from his source) is making DJUSD a “Basic Aid” district.  That means property values comparable to what you would see in Woodside, Carmel, Saratoga, a few places in Marin County.  DJUSD is a long way from becoming a Basic Aid district.  You would have to significantly change the character of the community for that to happen.

        And Folsom-Cordova Unified School District is not a Basic Aid district.  There’s a map in the link above that shows where Basic Aid districts are in California.

      3. Frankly

        I thought we were closer to basic aid status with our higher than average property tax revenue per capita and our relatively low K-12 student per parcel number.

        If we are really needing another $20 million in property tax, it would probably take three new innovation parks fully populated.

        There would be more parcels and hence greater supplemental parcel tax revenue.

        But if you check out the communities with business owners and employees becoming part of the community… the schools benefit with outside fund-raising and company contributions.

        1. wdf1

          Frankly: If we are really needing another $20 million in property tax, it would probably take three new innovation parks fully populated.

          Probably well more than $20 million, because $20 million is the amount David Greenwald said that the the district would need to achieve Basic Aid status.  But a portion of property taxes go to other entities, mostly counties.

  4. South of Davis

    David wrote (that Bob was informed):

    “no new revenue would be available to the District since any property taxes would be going to the State and not be passed through to the District (unless there was an unlikely increase in the valuation of the property). ”

    The schools would still get quite a bit of new parcel tax income and I may not be a real estate genius, but I think it is “likely” that the assessor will increase the valuation of a field next to Mace if it has a multi-million dollar tech center on it…

     

    1. Davis Progressive

      maybe you should read the whole passage: “In addition, due to the recent Alameda lawsuit regarding local parcel taxes, a company would not pay more in local parcel taxes than any other parcel (apartment complex, single family home) irrespective of the size of the parcel.”

      1. South of Davis

        DP wrote:

        > maybe you should read the whole passage

        Do you know of a single large piece of ag land that was developed in to an office (or innovation) park in CA where the number of parcels (APNs) did not increase?

        I can’t think of any and in the case of some with an office/R&D “condo” component there were hundreds of new “parcels” (and lots more parcel taxes for the schools)…

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