Reading a letter to the editor, I find the writer illustrates that the school funding formulas are increasingly complex and the public simply does not understand them.
The writer referenced a September 11 commentary submitted by Jason Taormino and the Chamber Board in support of the parcel tax, Measure H.
As the writer quotes, “… the Davis school district receives far less funding than most school districts in the state and as such, requires community support.”
Naturally the writer is unaware of how schools are funded. She asks, “What is this statement based on? What are the conditions that make the situation in Davis different from other districts? Why is this statement given as a fact without supporting information? Will the current high quality of our schools suddenly plummet without this parcel tax increase?”
With space limitations in newspapers it is hard to build foundation into articles, but this one is well-founded. Last night at the Vanguard’s school board candidates forum, Susan Lovenburg did a great job of articulating the challenge faced by the district in response to a Vanguard question along similar lines.
The state provides the baseline funding for school districts based on a per pupil amount based on ADA (average daily attendance). In DJUSD that represents about 80 percent of the funding. The state then offers additional monies based on the number of low-income and otherwise at-risk students. It is here where our district is put at a disadvantage and therefore receives less funding than most school districts in the state.
As Susan Lovenburg explained, the fact is that Davis, while having a growing number of Title 1 and low-income students, still has a good deal less than elsewhere in the state. The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) provides more funding for those students as they have higher needs, and that funding can help with a number of programs that would hopefully close the statewide achievement gap.
The problem is not, in fact, LCFF – according to her, the problem is that the baseline funding through ADA is insufficient to fund the programs needed to provide high quality education in districts, including DJUSD.
Our school district makes up for the shortfall in the basic level of funding by raising money locally through the parcel tax. The parcel tax accounts for roughly 12 percent of the district’s funding.
As Mr. Taormino put it, “Measure H, a $620 annual parcel tax, will support class-size reduction, retain approximately 100 teaching and staff positions and assure that our outstanding academic programs are maintained. Measure H continues to support other programs, including reading and math aides, counselors, librarians, elementary science, athletics, world language programs, and technical and vocational training.”
In short, without Measure H, the district would have to cut a lot of the programs that separate DJUSD from other districts.
There are other important questions here as well. The reason that the district has increased the amount from last time, when it was roughly $530, was due to changes in the way money was collected from multifamily units as the result of legal challenges from Jose Granda, one of the school board candidates, and others.
The board made the decision not to go up to $750 or $960 as Susan Lovenburg and Alan Fernandes on the board, candidate for the board Bob Poppenga, and the Vanguard felt necessary. The board had to balance its programmatic needs against electoral challenges of passing a higher tax.
Mr. Poppenga on Sunday indicated that he felt that the district should have polled more to attempt to find a “sweet-spot” – a place where more money could be collected but the voter support would remain at the two-thirds level needed for passage.
In an ideal world, the state would increase its allocation to the district. For DJUSD that might mean another 20 percent increase in funding. That would allow the district the funding it needs to maintain its level of education without a parcel tax.
Then again, in our view, that is still only scratching the surface. DJUSD has had trouble recruiting new and quality teachers, in part because of the inability to match other districts’ salary and compensation systems.
While money is not the only answer here, clearly the district is need of more resources to be able to provide the level of education we expect in our highly-educated and affluent community.
—David M. Greenwald reporting