Candidates Address District Funding Question at Forum

candidates-forumBy Nicholas von Wettburg

In addition to providing coverage, regularly, on the Davis Joint Unified School District (DJUSD) Board of Education, the Davis Vanguard has been committed to informing the community about the current school board race.

Up for grabs in the general election are two seats on the five-member board.

Davis voters will choose from four candidates on the ballot: Alan Fernandes, Jose Granda, Susan Lovenburg and Bob Poppenga.

On Sunday night, all four candidates participated in the Vanguard’s School Board Candidates Forum, at the Community Chambers.

The first round of the forum included stages where each of the candidates read a question of their own and listened to the responses of the others, who were given an allotment of two minutes.

Once the candidates finished with their answers, the questioner received two minutes to give some insight about why they asked the question and provide an answer of their own.

Each candidate was allowed a pair of one-minute challenge answers, as well as a 30-second challenge answer.

Whatever challenge went unused in the first round was available in the next round, which was comprised of three questions posed by the Vanguard.

The first question was, “DJUSD is a district with average funding. It is disadvantaged by the LCFF formula due to the affluence of the district. That means that, effectively, the district receives less money from the state than other districts. How can a district with those constraints be able to provide the resources needed to produce excellence in education?”

Lovenburg, whose turn was next in the rotation, said she wanted to elaborate on what was included in the question – in terms of DJUSD being an averagely-funded district.

Regarding the state mechanism, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), she explained that the district receives a base grant for every student and receives an additional amount of funding for high-need or at-risk students (English Learners, low socio-economic, foster youth and homeless youth).

“If a district has more than 55 percent of high-needs students, those districts get a concentration grant,” Lovenburg said. “Because we have a lower percentage of high-needs students we don’t get those additional funds. We get some supplemental funds for our students who are at-risk at around 27 percent, but we do not get a concentration grant.”

Increasing the base grant for all California school districts should be a priority, according to Lovenburg.

In response to the question, asking how to provide resources needed to produce excellence, she said that is achieved through the Parcel Tax.

About the base grant, Poppenga said the state, unfortunately, does not fund public education well.

He also said that, with the information available, expect more of the same – if not worse.

Poppenga suggested one way to overcome the funding issue is for the school board, UC Davis and the City of Davis to collaborate and hire a professional grant writer, which he believes would be well worth the cost.

“I think we have to go for bigger grants,” said Poppenga, referencing a New York Times article that appeared in the Thursday edition, titled, “Brooklyn School and Nine Others Win $10 million Grants to Rethink Education.”

“And I think we should be in that mix,” he said. “The characterization is they are using time in very flexible ways, they are ensuring personalized learning using tech and time embedded with rigor. That’s what each of those schools that got that money have in common.”

When it came time for his answer, Fernandes, said, “What he said, and she said,” gesturing over to Poppenga and Lovenburg.

“I’m done now,” he said, laughing. “Because no, in all seriousness that’s the answer people. It’s everything. We need to be doing everything we can possibly be doing to increase the resources for the exact reasons they said.”

Fernandes agrees with the need for grant funding, but he also mentioned the opportunity for perhaps untapped state funding via Proposition 51, which he said includes a school facilities bond.

“We can get more money if we do a bond ourselves to enable ourselves to have matching funds,” said Fernandes. “It’s about thinking smart and about looking at the rules that the state has set forward to really maximize how we can increase sources outside of just merely our LCFF funding.”

Although the question was, in his words, “railroaded to justify the Parcel Taxes,” Granda said that he wants people to understand what the community is going through right now, and its confusion on details about the measure.

He questioned the state and the funding of its base grant, in the belief that all students are funded the same way – so calling Davis disadvantaged is, to him, considered incorrect.

“If I am on this leadership team, I’m not going to be looking sideways to see where I’m going and that’s exactly what they’re doing here,” Granda said. “Because the other districts are funded because they have other needs and they have other kinds of students. They have poor students and they have English Learners, well that money is going to that, and of course it’s going to have more money.”

Using her one-minute challenge answer, Lovenburg said the type of grants that Bob and Jose touched on were for high-needs districts, which Davis is not.

Lovenburg also mentioned district, which is a local website dedicated to providing information on district funding.

In response to her comment about renewing the Parcel Tax, Granda addressed Lovenburg, using a minute challenge answer of his own.

“Susan, I really have an issue with what you said,” Granda said. “You said renew…what it means is to do it over with what you have. That’s not what the district is doing right now.”

Granda added: “The first thing you did, instead of the $531 that both of those measures produced, you raised it to $620, a 17 percent increase with no justification whatsoever. And then they doubled the time, the time that the measure lasts. So they doubled the amount, so now you pay…if you vote for Measure H you better pay those $5,000 because that’s the result of doubling the tax, plus a 17 percent increase.”

Lovenburg opted to use her 30-second challenge answer, re-emphasizing the point that the funding provided by Measure H would keep the programs in place that are being funded by Measures C and E.

“The difference is that we can no longer assess a multi-family rate and, Jose, you know that because you were involved in the lawsuit that required the district to change the way we structure the tax,” she said. “So I find it disingenuous that you’re raising this as a concern now.”

About The Author

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.

Related posts


  1. MrsW

    I was looking for a two part answer. One is how to get more money. The other is how to maximize the benefits from the money we have.

    How about figuring out how to leverage our communities’ strengths, better?  Way back when, City and DJUSD leadership realized that co-located public parks and schools was more efficient for everyone.  How about more of that kind of thinking?  What does the City of Davis need now, that DJUSD could help with or vice-versa? Sacramento City College and Woodland Community College are so close, how can DJUSD leverage on that proximity?  Parent energy is high in Davis.  What more can be done to harness that energy into something good for DJUSD?  Recycling rates are high in Davis.  What can be gleaned for the benefit of DJUSD and how?

    What about providing students with the tools to expand their own educational opportunities and horizons?  What if high school students had transportation to get to Community College and to jobs in a reasonable amount of time, in all kinds of weather?  What if drivers education was a right of passage for all DJUSD students, and not just the ones who’s family can afford the $300+ ? What if DJUSD offered drivers education again, would more of our students take a college course before they graduate from high school?  If so, DJUSD would be opening the door to vocational education for 1000’s of students, reducing their negligence in that area by orders of magnitude. Where are the creative thinkers?

    1. wdf1

      MrsW:  How about figuring out how to leverage our communities’ strengths, better? etc.

      Partnerships with community and UCD have been recommended as a strategy for several decades in Davis JUSD discussions.  I see evidence of things happening in the direction you discuss.  There is always opportunity for improvement, but I think it’s important to acknowledge what currently exists as potential starting or reference points.

      What I can think of off the top of my head: The Bridge Program has always relied on UCD student tutors to operate.  There are research-type internships available to DHS students at UCD as part of the CTE program.  Susan Lovenburg and Lucas Frerichs and others recently partnered to generate interest in mentorship opportunities for school children in our district.  Sac City College is expanding its Davis Center — I’m certain they continue to seek ways to be as relevant as possible in the community.  I understand that the DHS Baroque Ensemble does a collaborative concert with the UCD Baroque Ensemble.  Likewise the DHS Band does a collaborative concert with the UCD Concert Band.

      1. MrsW

        I do appreciate the efforts you describe, but they are not of the same magnitude as that which is under discussion.  The talk is about large-scale funding to augment the lack of State funds.  Large scale cooperative behaviors can also yield large scale improvements, as can large scale changes to the curriculum, or innovative approaches to recycling and reuse.  Providing a handful of opportunities to a handful of students who already have numerous opportunities is wonderful, but not Leadership for a whole community.  You tout the Bridge program using UCD tutors.  Wonderful, but the kids can’t drive when they’re old enough to get a job or old enough to perform the networking required to develop an internship opportunity (which they must have the maturity to develop themselves) or to transport themselves to an internship opportunity.  It’s beautiful, but it’s small potatoes, and to me, it demonstrates a lack of both imagination and a true commitment to children.

        1. wdf1

          I actually happen to know that they do talk to each other at an administrative level from time to time.  How much that is productive that comes from those talks is a different matter.

        2. MrsW

          I am glad to hear that they talk to each other.  I am very hopeful that our new Superintendent will make some real connections.  Just haven’t seen any evidence yet.

  2. Kropp1

    Just does’t seem right to equate “excellence in education” with supplemented base funding. I have an outdoor classroom in the Amazon. I have 25 astute children.

    My wife grabbed fruit from the cafe and raised it up pronouncing the name in English and having the kids tell her in Portuguese. The children who could recall the English word were awarded the fruit!

    I would say maintenance of the campus and then the teachers salary are our costs. I would talk to UCD and walk/bike/bus over with 25 students and use a lab for the day. Line out “other” expenditures and just like at home learn to live with one car instead of two for awhile.

    1. wdf1

      Kropp1: I would talk to UCD and walk/bike/bus over with 25 students and use a lab for the day. Line out “other” expenditures and just like at home learn to live with one car instead of two for awhile.

      UCD’s mission is not to educate K-12 students.  There maybe opportunities for individual high school to take college classes that are already being offered and that might have room.

      Your idea of taking 25 students over to use UCD’s lab for their own instruction starts to change the nature of what UCD’s responsibilities are, and I’m not sure they would be entirely pleased with the additional burdens.  They start to become responsible for minors in the way a K-12 district is.  There is an issue of their staff becoming mandatory reporters.  Of becoming answerable to the parents (because they’re under 18) rather than directly to the students (as they are to adult college students).  Of determining how to finance education that is supposed to be “free and accessible” to K-12 students, but which doesn’t have to be that way for college level education.  Of being responsible for truancy for chronic absence. There is a protocol of behavior and interaction toward minors that credentialed teachers have to follow, but which college level faculty are generally unaware of.

      1. MrsW

        UCD’s mission is not to educate K-12 students. 

        Right now, UC Davis has at least three summer programs for high school students–the Young Scholars Program; Cosmos; and UCD EAO Program.  In addition, UC Davis is one of the organizations that runs West Sac Early College Prep.  UC Davis also offers a number of camps for k-12, swim lessons, and allows individual students to use their craft center facilities.

        I went to a high school that was located practically across the street from a college.  For one of senior elective classes, I took a dance class on the college campus.  It was supervised by a professor; our teacher was a college senior in the dance program and she was getting teaching experience.  Our teacher took attendance and either mailed it or walked it over to the high school PE department.

        A few years ago, when DHS’ football field was unusable, DHS used Tomey Field.  So there must be some way to agree to share facilities sometimes.

        This tells me that there are synergies, sometimes.

  3. MrsW

    Here is an idea for consideration.  The money received by the district through ADA varies with student attendance, but the money received from the parcel tax does not.  Therefore, the place to focus on creatively stretching our dollars is on the money received via the parcel tax.

    Parcel taxes provide enrichment, class/program choice and personal attention.  One way other districts provide both enrichment and choice, is to accept elective credits earned at Community Colleges or online.  This passes the some costs of enrichment onto others, but also has the benefit of expanding choice for the student. If a large enough group of students are taking elective credits online or at Community College, it would free parcel tax dollars for the district to provide enrichment, choice and/or personal attention to others.  One thing DJUSD could do to facilitate students taking courses at Sac City College’s Davis Center, is by working with the college to schedule classes that a student can get to after 6th period or working with Unitrans to have a direct route between Da Vinci, DHS, DSIS/King and the Davis Center.  DJUSD administration could also expand its “non-DJUSD unit rule” to 40 elective credits.  I bet that by simply tweaking the non-DJUSD rule, money would be freed up.

    1. hpierce

      Parcel taxes, for most purposes, including education, parks, City parcel taxes, are inherently unfair in many ways… not proportional to ‘demand for services’… weighted voting, with those to pay the least, or can claim ‘exemptions’, have an equal vote to those who pay “full freight”… the opposite of taxation w/o representation… if you only plan to be in town 2 years, your vote has the same weight as those who have lived here 30+ years, and plan to remain 20 years + more…

      Yet at least one poster has advocated giving even MORE weight on votes to ones who have children in school, even if they live in a rental/MF unit.

      Per capita and/or income based taxes make sense… parcel taxes do not, unless the individual parcel, regardless of zoning, # of “clients”, etc, do not.

      But DTA will demand more compensation with a parcel tax increase  [and probably will get it], and the city folk will be rebuffed as to the passage of a City parcel tax, and will also be told they need to make significant concessions, whether or not a City parcel tax is proposed/approved…

      Prediction… opinion… also based on the fact that DJUSD has often (not sure about this year) pressured the city to hold off on any tax proposals, until after they got theirs passed… and stupidly, the City did…

      1. Greg Brucker

        I agree that the system of how parcel taxes can be set up is not a fair system – it is a flat tax. Unfortunately, Prop 13 dictates that it must be this way (along with obtaining the 2/3s vote), so the only way to change this is to address the regulations that Prop 13 forces us to work with.

        To take out that righteous concern on those who work for and support parcel taxes, those school or community programs or workers who are supported through their passage, or those taxes themselves, is in my opinion misplaced energy. Your beef is with the Ca State Govt and Prop 13 for forcing us to have to use this only tool to help fund our community’s needs.

        But DTA will demand more compensation with a parcel tax increase  [and probably will get it],

        Parcel taxes have always gone directly to and will, through the current renewal, fund specific programs, and will not go to increased compensation and benefits. Nor can or will this be changed midstream to move money over toward increased compensation. There is solid oversight and transparency when it comes to these monies. Please see for the numbers.

        On a personal note, as a Davis Teachers Association Site Rep, and a teacher whose program is mostly funded by the parcel taxes (music), I will always speak out against increased compensation being included in our parcel taxes. I do not believe that is a burden the people should be asked to take on in the form of self taxation, nor do I think this community would support it, no matter how many people believe we are underpaid.





Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

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