(Editor’s notes: The following are the full written remarks from Superintendent John Bowes given regarding teacher compensation at Thursday night’s school board meeting).
Building the Best DJUSD Team
The new school year is off to a great start and we are fortunate to have the benefit of a high-quality teaching, classified and administrative staff. We have worked hard to fill all positions as timely as possible. At our last Board of Education meeting I spoke about our celebration welcoming 47 new teachers we have to the District. Many have shared their perceptions and questions with me about why we have so many openings each year, a number equal to about 10% of our certificated workforce.
As part of our Strategic Plan work, our Strategy Team 5, which included a broad cross-representation of teachers, administrators, parents and community members, spent a year focused on how we can attract and retain quality employees. A key recommendation of the report was that we determine what is competitive and comparable regional compensation for all employees – and strive to be at or above the regional comparable compensation level.
One of the questions heard by the committee and one that I am asked frequently is “Why are so many teachers leaving our District for other districts? And, is that because of low pay?”
I want to be very clear about this – while we are being proactive by identifying Personnel Scarcity as a Core Challenge- Davis Joint Unified is fortunate to be a district that as yet does not have an attraction or retention problem. At the same time, we are working to implement the Strategy Team 5 recommendations and while we acknowledge a wage gap between some neighboring districts exists, this has not translated to a current attract and retain problem to date. In fact, we are almost fully staffed and I will talk about these details in a moment.
Again, we are aware that there is a wage gap with some of our surrounding communities. This is why, before we do find ourselves in a challenging hiring situation, we are committed to work to find ways be at or above the regional compensation average. It is important we continue the Strategy Team 5 work on this identified dilemma by agreeing to the real facts on the ground and working together to find real solutions. Some may think that this is the district’s problem to figure out, but in a district that is below the average state funded level for unified school districts we need to come up with creative ways to raise revenues and/or re-prioritize spending.
Teachers Departing to or Entering From Another District
Let me first address Teacher Retention- When we look at the data, we had 17 teachers retire and another 29 teachers resign from our district last year. Of the 29 resignations, ten moved to other locations, an additional nine left due to personal necessity, and five because of a promotion, to continue their education or left the profession altogether. The remaining five of the 29 teachers who resigned from the District this year did so to move to another District.
At the same time, DJUSD hired over 30 teachers with experience from other school districts. So, while five teachers left the DJUSD for other districts, we have hired over 30 teachers away from other districts. While salary and health benefits are an important consideration for any employees, we must also recognize that our District has many other attributes that employees seek when looking for employment.
Certificated Staffing Update
This brings me to our more general update. I am happy to report that we are almost fully staffed, with just two open certificated positions which occurred as a result of a Leave of Absence and a promotion in August and we are pursuing all leads with regards to filling those Montessori and Special Education openings – if you know of anyone with either of those credentials in search of employment please refer them to our Personnel Services department.
It is important to recognize that many of the openings we have are due to our certificated teaching staff opting to utilize different sorts of permissive leaves for a variety of reasons, such as starting a family, illness, or taking care of a family member, or wanting to work less than full-time. This flexibility afforded staff is not only an important benefit as an employee of our District, but a right codified in federal and state laws, our collective bargaining agreement, Board Policies and Administrative Regulations. As a District we believe in and support the exercise of these leaves, and accordingly must each year hire employees new to the District to fill these openings. Let’s look at the actual data surrounding certificated Leaves of Absence to see what this looks like for the current school year.
We currently support 33 different certificated employees, representing 17.7 Full-Time Equivalent positions, on some type of Leave of Absence for the 2017-18 school year. This important right to a leave allows employees to take a break from work, often at critical junctures in their lives, while providing a guarantee of continued employment.
14 teachers, representing 7.1 FTE, are engaged in tandem teaching positions, meaning two teachers each work part-time in the same classroom sharing a full-time position. This option, which is a teacher-initiated leave, allows teachers who wish to work half-time the ability to do so with the option of returning to full-time status in the future.
7 teachers, representing 4.8 FTE, participate in our contractually bargained Work Reduction program, meaning they can work less than a full-time position with the option of returning to full-time employment in the future. This is also a teacher-initiated leave that occurs at the discretion of the employee.
As you see, most of our openings are to fill-in for existing employees on leave. This benefit to employees should not be misconstrued as a retention problem. Rather, it should be viewed an effective means to ensure valued employees have the opportunity to return to work full-or part time after exercising their right to a leave.
17 certificated employees, representing 14.8 FTE, retired this year. Across the region, state and county, this number will likely continue to increase as the Baby-Boomer generation continues to reach retirement age, through 2027. The average age of these retiring teachers was 63 and the average length
of service was 21 years. Some of you in the audience were able to join us at Oddfellows back on May 17 to celebrate their retirement. While our certificated staff in the State of California are not eligible for Social Security, they are members of the California State Teachers Retirement System, known as CalSTRS.
CalSTRS is a defined benefit, not a defined contribution, retirement program and therefore provides a guaranteed lifetime retirement to teachers based on a formula of years served, age and income. Each month, a certificated employee contributes 10.25% of their paycheck to CalSTRS, and each month the school district contributes 14.43% towards each teacher’s retirement. The employee contribution rate has risen 2.0% since 2013. At the same time, the District contribution has risen from 8.25% to 14.43% and will continue to rise to 19.10% in the 2019-21 school year. I want to be sure to mention that a similar guaranteed defined contribution systems is provided for our classified employees through CalPERS, the California Public Employee Retirement System. The district is also making similar increasing levels of contribution to CalPERS just as we are with CalSTRS. For both retirement programs, these mandatory district contributions to the retirement system come out of the same General Fund monies that are used for salary and benefits and are an important part of the contributions made to employee compensation, now and for the future.
Education is a People Business
Education is a people business, and we must remember that, consistent with other districts, we contribute 88% of our general fund monies to salary and health benefits. This concept that we are a people business and our employees are key to our success was a central consideration of the serious work that went into reviewing this idea as part of our most recent Strategic Plan Goal.
You are going to soon see some published information from the District on our website about what regional compensation comparables look like.
It is important to know that in our teacher salary schedule there are built-in annual increases for both years served and for taking additional university courses. Teachers in the first seven years of service can increase their annual income by up to 8.5% each year through years served and continuing education. Biannual service Increases continue in years 10 – 20 years of service with an additional increase at year 25. We encourage all employees to continue their education.
Let’s now return to the wage gap . . . and why we need to find real solutions to close that gap. As in discussing employee compensation and health benefits, we must also deal with the economic realities of the state funding system used in the State of California. While generally supporting the equity-based funding approach of the Local Control Funding Formula system and the corresponding application of those dollars through the Local Control and Accountability Plan, it is not a funding model benefitting communities like Davis with regard to revenue.
Under LCFF DJUSD is not a Winner
It is important to remember that the state of California moved away from the local use of property taxes almost forty years ago. The funding model is a state-centralized system that collects local tax revenues and then reallocates them to districts through a recent funding model.
Public school districts in California receive funding through the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) based on a three-tier funding model. That model provides additional funding to districts beyond an initial base grant based on the number of English Learner, Low Income, Foster and Homeless Youth. That ‘unduplicated count’ means that one of four Davis students generate what is called supplemental funding for our programs. Districts with an unduplicated count of students over 55% qualify for a third tier of funding that provides substantially more dollars for such districts – DJUSD does not receive these concentration grant monies.
Not only does California continue to lag behind most states in per-pupil funding, the Local Control Funding Formula is meant to only bring us, adjusted for inflation, to 2007-2008 funding levels. While we have been very thankful the increases over the last five, that funding cycle has almost fully fulfilled its mandate, meaning the increases we have seen in the past will not occur in the future.
Compounding that, as I mentioned earlier, are our District contributions to our certificated and classified pension systems which will have doubled during that same period. Another way of stating that is that much of the increases from the Local Control Funding Formula have been utilized for mandatory retirement contributions.
These recent contributions have also helped to cover an ongoing structural deficit in our District that has persisted for over a decade, and I have identified it as a core challenge to meeting our many goals, and I will be reporting back on our work surrounding that in a future meeting. Given all that, we are still hard at work trying to address our compensation gap with other districts, who have the same mandatory retirement contribution obligations, but receive far higher funding through the Local Control Funding Formula.
We are thankful to our community for their continuous support of the Parcel Tax which funds many teaching positions and provides many wonderful programs and services for students. We are also thankful for the support of the Davis Schools Foundation, Davis School Arts Foundation, and the many other organizations that help support our schools through direct donations, volunteering and partnerships.
I would also like to say something about teacher housing and would encourage everyone to read the August 27 article on this subject in the Davis Enterprise. Purchasing a home anywhere in California is difficult compared to most of the rest of the United States. The housing and rental markets in Davis are particularly tight, with few properties for sale and apartments leased very quickly. Housing prices in Davis are much higher than in the rest of Yolo County, in large part driven by the economics of being a university town and the City master plan. The district was able to partner with the city in a recent home lottery – that was made possible because the district owned and then sold the property where those houses were built. This is a step in the right direction, and we are carefully monitoring pending legislation at the State level addressing this issue.
We are a people business and value all employees that make up the DJUSD. That’s why even though we are managing a structural deficit, we prioritized not laying off any of our certificated staff last spring for the current school year. This ultimately helps students as we are able to retain our teachers. Maintaining our current teaching staff has also helped us to avoid any combination classes in our elementary schools outside of programs which purposely construct them, which include the Fairfield Elementary multi-age program and the Montessori program at Birch Lane Elementary.
We are looking to partner with our bargaining units and community in discovering real solutions to help solve these challenges. Let me quickly describe some recent substantive accomplishments addressing our challenge to improve salary and benefits and attract and retain employees:
- Our new Teacher Intern program allows teachers new to the profession to obtain a Special Education credential while working in the District.
- Our new Classified Employee to Teacher Pipeline program has assisted 33 classified employees from DJUSD who are on their way to obtaining their teacher credential.
- Our Strategic Action team has provided research, a solid direction and an important goal to be at or about the regional average in teacher compensation.
- A Board Study Session was held in May to discuss ways to increase revenues and reprioritize expenses.
- We are seeking an Average Daily attendance Waiver from the state to allow us to bring in more Revenue by being able to count short-term absences.
Please join me and my staff in looking at ways we can increase revenue and/or reprioritize expenditures so we can attract and retain the best teachers, substitute teachers and other certificated staff for our students and provide competitive pay and health benefits for years to come.
The future of our district is defined by the talented team of employees and our partnerships with parents and the broader school community. Together we can find the best path forward. I encourage you to contact me directly at TeamSolutions@djusd.net with any ideas you have around these issues. This is a defined Core Challenge for this year and a priority for all of us!