Board Finalizes Parcel Tax Resolution before Break

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Parcel-Tax-ChalkBy Nicholas von Wettberg

At the Davis board of education special meeting on Wednesday, the public hearing on the approval of the school parcel tax called for comment.

Only one person inside the Community Chambers made a comment to the Davis Joint Unified School District (DJUSD) school board on the agenda action item, and that was Ron Glick.

“How many millions of dollars are on the line, and I’m the only one here?” Glick asked, in reference to the economic impact of the parcel tax renewal (combining Measures C & E), which at $9.5 million works out to roughly 12 percent of the district budget.

“That’s amazing,” he said with his voice trailing off.

Glick told the board that he watched the special meeting, from the day before, in which after a three-hour discussion on the topic trustees had agreed unanimously on a November ballot measure of $620 annually for eight years.

And, while declaring his support for the amount, Glick did feel there might have been unnecessary time and resources spent, as part of the decision-making process.

“You polled it,” he said, in another reference – this to a pair of telephone surveys conducted on the interest level of Davis voters in April and May. “And I was watching last night and there was all this discussion about people thinking they know that the community will step up. Well, if you know that why bother hiring the poll? Why take the poll? So you took the poll and the poll came back that said ‘this is the optimum amount,’ and rightfully you settled on it.”

Discussions on the measure from the past handful of meetings have revolved around whether the board should ask for a higher amount than the $620, which, as it is, would be used to maintain existing programs and services.

Trustees were obligated to explore the possibility of a higher amount, and, while the final decision was consistent with the recommendation given to them by EMC Research, the additional information the district received via the surveys, on issues such as school climate, proved invaluable.

For now, the board’s hands are tied because of the state’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). As long as it is set up the way it is, the district will remain at the mercy of the additional source of funds the school parcel tax provides.

Without it, there would be an ugly round of teacher layoffs, not to mention a noticeable gap in learning and enrichment opportunities for students.

So the thinking was that any extra funding the DJUSD could get from taxpayers – via a measure with an increased amount, at $750 or even $950 – would be used for improvements, on a number of levels, but also put into district coffers.

As Trustee Alan Fernandes reasoned months ago when the discussion was centered on the results of the first survey, settling for the $620 amount would be playing it much too safe – the football equivalent of “punting the ball on third and two.”

Fernandes pumped the higher amount concept throughout the process, touting the virtues of having something to go to during foreseeable hard times.

“The Governor has started a rainy-day fund,” Glick said. “I don’t think we need a second one. I agree with Tom (Adams) that if you have this pot of money sitting there’s the temptation for someone to put their hand in the cookie jar…to try and hold it (funds) back, you know somebody’s kid needs some service and there’s this pile of money and you’re like ‘no, we’re saving that for a rainy day’…I don’t think it’s wise.”

Davis voters clearly care about education, indicated by the high percentage of residents with degrees, and the area has long been a destination for parents because of the public school system.

The relationship between Davis voters and school parcel taxes dates back to 1984.

Following the public hearing portion, Board President Madhavi Sunder brought to action the approval of Resolution No. 59-16 Calling an Election, Establishing Specification of the Election Order, and Requesting Consolidation of Election.

Associate Superintendent Bruce Colby, who presented the item, said there had been a workshop on Tuesday afternoon with staff and legal counsel (Attorney Lisa Allred), working under direction for the language/legality of the resolution and ballot text.

Earlier on Wednesday, the board was presented with a final draft of the resolution, which would be the official version trustees voted for later that evening.

A copy is posted on the district website.

Exemptions in the measure are for seniors and those with disabilities. There is also a CPI (Consumer Price Index) inflation factor included.

Fernandes thanked the work of the parcel tax sub-committee, calling the process a very challenging and difficult task.

“And I think the sub-committee, with my colleagues over here, trustees (Barbara) Archer and Adams, did an outstanding job, not only with regard to the polling that was done but bringing in all of the issues, the outreach that they had us do, the branding that really shows what the parcel tax does,” he said.

Under the watch of Sunder, which began at the beginning of the calendar year, the board has made two things its priority.

The first is continuing their persistent efforts at closing the achievement gap. The second, having a school parcel tax on the November ballot.

“Stewarding those to completion as we are here tonight is quite a task and I think you did a good job with that and I want to thank you,” he said to Sunder.

The board is off for the month and will return on Thursday, August 4.

A campaign to educate voters on the measure will begin perhaps sometime next month.

It was a bittersweet moment for the trustees, and for the remaining few DJUSD staff members in attendance – the meeting on Wednesday was the final one under the leadership of interim superintendent Kevin French, who came to the rescue, so to speak, after the abrupt departure of former Superintendent Winfred Roberson.

The new superintendent, Dr. John Bowes, took over control on July 1.

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11 thoughts on “Board Finalizes Parcel Tax Resolution before Break”

  1. nameless

    And, while declaring his support for the amount, Glick did feel there might have been unnecessary time and resources spent, as part of the decision-making process.
    “You polled it,” he said, in another reference – this to a pair of telephone surveys conducted on the interest level of Davis voters in April and May. “And I was watching last night and there was all this discussion about people thinking they know that the community will step up. Well, if you know that why bother hiring the poll? Why take the poll? So you took the poll and the poll came back that said ‘this is the optimum amount,’ and rightfully you settled on it.””

    Ron Glick had this exactly right IMO – more money wasted by DJUSD.

  2. Misanthrop

    I don’t think his point was that they wasted money on the poll but that not taking the poll seriously and asking for more money than the poll indicated would pass would be a mistake.

      1. Misanthrop

        I think your taking it out of context. If you look at both quotes taken together I think he was saying that taking the poll and then ignoring it would be a waste of money. In the end he did say they got it right and he supported the parcel tax.

        Still I don’t disagree with you at least on the second poll being a waste of money to test the wishful thinking of the two board members who continued pushing for a hire amount in spite of the evidence.

  3. nsw

    To summarize:

    Because of LCFF, our Davis public schools don’t get the level of funding from the state that many other, less affluent, districts get. The parcel tax helps make up for this, and I like the inflation/CPI factor inclusion. Getting the amount right to make sure the schools have at least a-bird-in-the-hand was important, and I don’t begrudge the polling.

    I don’t agree with Glick’s point about the governor’s rainy day fund being a real “cover-all” against future cuts — it’s a few billion compared to an annual budget of a $125+ billion. Rosy estimates put the rainy day fund balance at about $7 billion by next summer. A good start, but given CA’s boom-or-bust tax structure, not enough. But I do agree, sadly, with Glick’s further statement that a locally-held rainy day fund would make a tempting target for raiding for other “needs.”

    —-

    Regarding the other priority, the achievement gap, if the board can solve that, they will deserve the Nobel prize this coming year. It’s a Sisyphean task, one in which the schools don’t control many of the levers, but we have to try…

    1. wdf1

      nsw:  Regarding the other priority, the achievement gap, if the board can solve that, they will deserve the Nobel prize this coming year. It’s a Sisyphean task, one in which the schools don’t control many of the levers, but we have to try…

      I generally agree with your other comments.  To build on this, the problem with the achievement gap is that it is defined by test scores in English and math (the 3 R’s), therefore achievement gap interventions focus on those specific areas.  The achievement gap test score trends have been well-defined for at least 30 years, and the response strategy has always been consistent — direct interventions on those subject areas, math and English.  It’s time to quit trying more or less just the same solution that we’ve been after for 30+ years, because we haven’t significantly closed achievement gap during that time.  It’s also time to broaden how we measure student achievement to be more than just standardized test scores in math and English.

      If you fall into an achievement gap group, your options in school are limited specifically because most/all of a student’s available time and resources is focused on content interventions.  Those students are not afforded the same opportunities to explore other areas and other growth areas and skill sets– science/robotics, music, drama, art, athletics, student government, high school newspaper, yearbook, etc.

      1. MrsW

        It’s time to quit trying more or less just the same solution that we’ve been after for 30+ years, because we haven’t significantly closed achievement gap during that time.  

        Hear, hear!

         

      2. nameless

        To wdf1: Are you suggesting giving up on getting kids more proficient in math and English because the schools cannot seem to close the achievement gap as shown on test scores?  Throw out test scores as a way of measuring student progress because it keeps looking bad, showing that schools are not doing their job at teaching kids the basics?  If that is your position (and I don’t want to put words in your mouth), I have to completely disagree.  Math and English proficiency are the most important subjects for students to master.  Without those two things, nothing else much matters.  Without good English skills, a student won’t be able to write a simple paragraph or speak intelligently.  Without simple math skills students can’t make change or balance a checkbook.  The achievement gap can be closed, but there are certain things that have to happen – the mindset of the schools has to change about “new math” and other perfidious practices.  As a teacher, I saw the problem first hand.  I don’t want to repeat the story, but in sum my slower 8th grade math students scored higher on the algebra preparedness test than all the other teachers in my grade level who actually had the brighter students.  My science students could actually write a decent paragraph/science report by the end of the year, but couldn’t even add decimals or create a decent sentence in the beginning of the year. Why?

        1. Students did not know their math tables.  For 4×5, they were taught to draw 4 rows of 5 “x’s”, and then count them, to ensure they “understood” what 4×5 meant.  When given a problem like 62×45, it was agonizing to watch the students laboriously drawing out their rows of “x’s” to count.  Instead, the previous year students graphed Micky Mouse and other cartoons rather than memorize the math tables.  By the end of the year, all my 8th grade students could add, subtract, multiply and divide whole numbers, decimals and fractions.  Three of my four classes could do simple algebra.

        2. Students were forced to write their memoirs in Social Studies class, a minimum of 20 pages long, and regularly shown film strips without much discussion.  Memoirs were never checked for grammar, spelling, reading comprehension.  The only thing that was checked was number of pages.  Memoirs = busy work.  Films=teacher down time

        3. Science students were all given A’s and B’s the previous year, the same students some of whom were shocked to be given D’s and F’s in my class for subpar performance and failure to turn in work.

        4. Students were promoted to the next grade who only showed up to class half the time and never did a lick of work.

        5. I was told not to teach math in my science class by the math teacher.  The woman actually left her class unattended, stormed into my classroom, and confronted me about it in front of all my students.

        6. In-service days usually involved some new and expensive curriculum to use in teaching students a “new way of learning” that ultimately was convoluted, confusing, and counterproductive.  But it made millions of dollars for the companies peddling the garbage.  One time it involved a “game” for $400,000 to purchase.

        I could go on, but I’ll stop there.  Granted, I taught many years ago in a tough neighborhood outside Baltimore.  However, judging from the teaching my children received in the public school system in both VA and CA  and the failure of the schools to make much of a dent in the achievement gap, I highly doubt much has changed.

         

  4. hpierce

    And, again, DJUSD, by ‘going first’ has pretty much ensured that no City Parcel tax, of any meaningful amount will be passed in the next 8 years…  CC & DJUSD have shown great cooperation, as usual…

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