Teacher Talks about Addressing the Teacher Compensation Gap

Teacher helping students in school classroom

It has been nearly two weeks since teachers poured into the school board meeting, asking the school district to address the compensation gap.  The Vanguard spoke late last week with former DTA president Blair Howard, who currently teaches at King High, about what the options are and what the community is perhaps willing to do about it.

Mr. Howard noted that the teachers sat out the parcel tax discussion last time, which he felt was “a big tactical mistake because we weren’t able to give voice to our needs.”  He said it was a hard conversation to have, and because they stayed out of it, “our perspective was let out of it, and the status quo which wasn’t acceptable and the district knew that was the one that went forward.”

He said, “One way or another it affects the DTA because either the positions are affected by the parcel tax or it’s the other things that we are able or not able to do because we’re putting money towards what the community expects – great programs and services we provide.”

Blair Howard explained it was a tough time for the teachers – they were trying to get a new contract at the same time there was a new parcel tax on the ballot.  “It’s hard to do what we need to do at the same time there’s a new parcel tax measure out there that needs to be passed,” he said.  “We’re exploring ways to go forward and do that.”

There are some interesting questions out there.  One of the them is from a case in the city of Upland, where the courts have ruled that, if the citizens put a parcel tax measure on the ballot, it become a majority vote requirement rather than two-thirds vote requirement.

The California Supreme Court in August made the distinction between taxes imposed by government and taxes recommended by citizen groups.

“Taxation imposed by initiative is not taxation imposed by local government,” the decision states.

Blair Howard said they are not sure whether that would apply to a school parcel tax, but it is something they would be interested in exploring.

One of the questions the teachers have is whether the parcel tax “actually pays for all the extra stuff.”  He said, “Because you don’t want to lock yourself into line items, the parcel tax is a little squishy.  So the implementation can be a little squishy.”  So the questions are “how much class size reduction?”  “How much seventh period?”  “How much music?”

He said there are two philosophical positions here.  “One is that the parcel tax doesn’t actually pay for all of the positions,” he explained.  So money that could go to all kinds of things including teacher salaries if the district prioritized it, the money that is described for all of these programs listed in the parcel tax “is greater than we actually have” and “we should have been more real about what it costs to do all this.”

Looking at it in this way, the teacher salary issue simply increases the costs of providing given programs and, if teacher salaries go up, the costs for programs rises more than anticipated in the parcel tax.

At the same time, he acknowledged, “programs are important to folks” and the parents and voters want those programs in the school district.

“The other approach is to say, we have a compensation gap.  Whatever the finances are – we trust that the district is utilizing its finances effectively,” he said.  “We may be able to do certain things on the margins, but absent radical changes to the program we deliver, we’re just not going to be able to increase teacher compensation to the level at which we defined as our own issue, without additional funds from the community.”

He noted that we don’t anticipate changes to state funding or changes to the CFF.

The question is how does a district, that gets to average funding with the parcel tax, have below average compensation.

“What you’re talking about is that you have more teachers, deliver more programs.  When you look at the budget from the macro-level that CTA trains people to look at, it looks like all of our numbers are healthy,” Blair Howard explained.  “We spend 40 percent of the budget on certificated salaries and the admin as a total budget is within an expected range.  From the big level, it looks right.”

The problem is “we get to that 40 percent because we have more people for the district our size.”  He pointed out that “even when you look at class size, we’re not ahead.  Because it’s not that we have more people to do the same amount of work, it’s that we have more people to do more work.  Because we’re providing seven periods.  That means we provide all these music classes.

“That’s how we end up with average funding, above average services, below average pay,” he said.  “If we just have average services, we can get to average pay.”

What drives the success of this district is that the community cares about education and is willing to pay for that level of education.  But clearly there are tough choices now that the community is going to have to make.

At some point there needs to be an assessment about the programs that the district provides and how to pay for those programs.

But there are problems with trying to cut back on programs, as Blair Howard pointed out – “you saw what happened when they just decided to trim some German.  So if you’re going to have a long public comment just to try to save German…”

Blair Howard explained that the way the district usually thinks about funding is in terms of percentages.  Last week, we calculated that ending the senior exemption would generate about $800,000 in additional money for the school district.

Mr. Howard explained that $800,000 would generate about a two percent increase just for the teachers, but he said “we also have classified folks.  The general assumption or at least trend in the past is that if you adjust the teachers, you adjust CSEA (the classified employees or support staff).”

So when you look at what a one percent raise costs, you look at it in terms of the whole district, not just the teachers.  Mr. Howard thinks a one percent raise is about $450,000 for the whole district.  So ending the senior exemption may gain the district a two percent pay increase across the board.

“Which gets you somewhere but it’s not going (close the gap),” he said.  “And the gap, absent anything else, is probably going to keep on growing.”

Going from $620 to $760 in the parcel tax, however, generates about $2.5 million in additional funding which looks more like a six percent across the board increase.

But Blair Howard said CTA is also looking at tax fairness.  “The parcel tax is still at the end of the day a regressive tax,” he said.  He said that “you can run it by square-footage.  It still would be not based on your income, but if you live in a bigger house, you would likely have a bigger income.”

The bottom line for Blair Howard is there needs to be “just a plan.  Some way to move forward.

“The plan,” he said.  “is we’ll negotiate. “

He pointed out, “We tried this very cooperative approach to negotiations, it didn’t really lead to much of anything.  We got the salary adjustment last year.  That was negotiated the previous year.  The last two negotiations we haven’t actually come out of these negotiations with anything.”

The problem with negotiations is “you can’t promise anything.”  “It’s easy for both sides to say, we’ll see you in negotiations.  But that’s part of the public pressure.  It sounded like part of the superintendent’s response to the team solutions email is to give him some solutions.  But those solutions depend on the people that have the power between the board and the administration to pursue and come up with a plan for the solutions.”

The pressure is on now because the teacher’s contract expired in June and right now they are operating without a contract – and so right now they have the opportunity to put some pressure on the school district to change its approach.

—David M. Greenwald reporting



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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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63 Comments

  1. Howard P

    The pressure is on now because the teacher’s contract expired in June and right now they are operating without a contract 

    Apparently, untrue… from the current MOU…

    This agreement shall remain in full force and effect from July 1, 2014, up to and including June 30, 2017, and thereafter shall continue in effect year by year unless one of the parties notifies the other in writing between the days of January 1 and February 1 of its request to modify, amend, or terminate the Agreement.

    As are many of the other ‘facts’ in the article… or, should we call it an “ad”?

    Prediction… additional parcel taxes for schools will soon be proposed; the City will hold off on its consideration of its PT until that is resolved; if the school parcel tax passes muster as simple majority measure, it will pass; if it does, a City PT, needed 2/3 majority, will fail.

    No problem… it’s for the kids! The City can made do with getting more concessions from its employees, or reduce programs and staff…

     

  2. Jim Hoch

    We could reduce transfers as they are less revenue per person than district students as there is no parcel tax associated with them. This would involve downsizing a building and the admin functions in parallel. It would significantly increase revenue per student though on a lower base. So again, overhead would need to be eliminated to reflect the population.

    1. David Greenwald

      Reducing transfer would reduce ADA which is why they take the transfers to begin with. It’s not clear to me how that is going to end up reducing enough costs.

      Basically the variables here are program or salaries.

      1. Howard P

        Will attempt to correct you again…

        Basically the variables here are program or salaries.

        I note you like to use the term “total comp” when it comes to City employees, “salaries” when it comes to teachers… no bias there, notwithstanding the increase is STRS costs and pensions, when it comes to salaries… at least your biases are overt.

      2. Keith O

        ADA doesn’t cover the cost of each student, if it did we wouldn’t be in the shortfall we are now.

        The more students we take in it seems to put us more in the red.

        More students=more teachers, more admin, more facilities, more costs, more parcel taxes that only locals pay

      3. Jim Hoch

        Fewer students mean fewer employees though higher revenue per employee. There are enough transfers that eliminating them would possibly allow the district to consolidate out of one building which would be a major saving.

        Taking transfers is a strategy to avoid lowering the employee head count. Lowering headcount while increasing pay for the remaining would likely give us a better school system.

        1. Jim Hoch

          Closing or mothballing facilities is difficult. I may understand that better than anyone here. King would be the primary target for co-location as I believe they have less than 50 students according to third party sources but “between 65 and 80” according to the King homepage. . Below is the staff directory. If they have “between 65 and 80” it seems like a lot of people. Possibly some of the below are not full time at King.

           

          Michelle Flowers
          Principal

          mflowers@djusd.net

          Maricela Ortega
          Site Administrative Assistant

          mortega@djusd.net

          Michele Andrew
          Counselor

          mandrew@djusd.net

          Theo Buckendorf
          Government/Practical Arts/PE Teacher

          tbuckendorf@djusd.net

          Mark Jordan
          Math Teacher

          mjordan@djusd.net

          Blair Howard
          US History/World History Teacher

          bhoward@djusd.net

          Matt Haines
          English Teacher

          mhaines@djusd.net

          Cristina Buss
          Science Teacher

          cbuss@djusd.net

          Wes Ruff
          Economics/Fine Arts Teacher

          wruff@djusd.net

          Elizabeth Allen
          Resource Teacher

          eallen@djusd.net

          April Seto
          Psychologist

          aseto@djusd.net

          Maria Aguirre
          Paraeducator

          maguirre@djusd.net

  3. Keith O

    I think it’s time we look into getting rid of some of the “nice to have” programs that only a few participate in.  Let’s get back to the more core subject matter.  This will result in a decrease in teachers and hopefully administrators resulting in a benefit of all the remaining getting a raise.

    Homeowners are tapped out.

        1. Jim Hoch

          “Mandarin” Totally crazy, Mandarin and English are the two most widely spoken languages in the world and will only increase in importance over time. Anything other than English and Mandarin is dispensable.

          1. Don Shor

            Anything other than English and Mandarin is dispensable.

            Why? My daughter took Japanese in high school, and that single choice had more impact on her career trajectory than any other class she took.
            I think most of us are not good judges of what is dispensable.

        2. Jim Hoch

          “Jim: That’s just a weird comment. You might want to note we live in California.”
          pro·vin·cial·ism

          prəˈvin(t)SHəˌlizəm/

          noun
          “the way of life or mode of thought characteristic of the regions outside the capital city of a country, especially when regarded as unsophisticated or narrow-minded.”

          David, we also live in a big world and once in awhile kids leave Davis.

          Don, no doubt learning Japanese is a great thing to do. It is not where I would bet given geopolitical and geoeconomic trends.

          1. Don Shor

            It is not where I would bet given geopolitical and geoeconomic trends.

            That’s correct. In other words, you have no idea what would be useful to a student in high school today. Geopolitics and “geoeconomics” aren’t the only factors — or even, in my mind, important factors — in what constitutes a useful high school education.

        3. David Greenwald

          In any case, the discussion over language misses the point.  And diverts from the main issue.  Do you believe we should reduce to six classes a day and if so, what are the advantages and disadvantages to that approach?  Because if you keep seven periods, then the discussion over language classes is rearranging the chairs and not a cost-savings device.

        4. Howard P

          Japanese is a nice to have… but important to some… my nephew learned Japanese, went to Japan to teach English, and married a girl/woman he met there… family… good!

          He learned Japanese on his own… not in the regular school system…

          Used to be, familiarity, if not mastery, of at least one foreign language was required… foreign language acquisition is important… Europeans know this.  There is a certain, je ne sais quoi, advantage… is it “core”, no… is it valuable, yes!  If you disagree, perhaps we should make a second language mandatory… as we learn most of our language as kids, we should start it in K.

        5. Howard P

          David… look at the advantage of only six periods… we could eliminate the early morning class time, as many researchers have suggested… when I was in the school system, there were 6 periods, each 50 minutes long… the 7th was optional… it was also ‘code’ for getting out of PE to do a sport… mine were X-country and tennis… I hated “PE”, so liked to do two things I loved, as an alternative…

          Same weight, and have only grown an inch in waist… I blame gravity…

        6. Howard P

          Hmmm.. even it 15 seconds on the clock, my edit/addition did not take…

          Back on topic…

          I am a full proponent of “pay for performance”… unions hate that, and public agencies are gun-shy on the concept… my concern is that if we increase compensation across the board, to attract/retain the best, the mediocre/marginal get to float with that tide… not cost efficient.

        7. H Jackson

          Jim Hoch:  Mandarin and English are the two most widely spoken languages in the world and will only increase in importance over time. Anything other than English and Mandarin is dispensable.

          What’s wrong with Spanish?  If you go with native languages spoken, Mandarin is first, Spanish second, English third.  It’s also the second most commonly spoken language in the U.S.

        1. David Greenwald

          The only way you can eliminate German and other “nice to haves” and actually reduce costs would be if you reduce HS down to six periods. We could do that. The kids would not get as good or well rounded an education. Personaly I’m not in favor of going that route.

        2. Keith O

           

          Okay, how about reducing to 6 periods and if any parents want their children to take extracurricular type classes like German, Mandarin, Japanese, basket weaving, etc. they pay 7th period fees for the class?

    1. Howard P

      Homeowners are tapped out.

      You may feel that way… particularly if you are focused on your ‘nice to haves’…

      Strongly believe that the # of folks who would lose their homes or take out reverse mortgages, starve, etc. to pay any sort of taxes proposed to date is ~ zero.

  4. Ron

    Regarding the parcel tax, the problem is that many of the property owners who pay for it don’t have an “active/vested” interest (in the form of school-aged children).  (Of course, “another” problem is that apartment complexes pay the same amount as a single-family home, regardless of the size of the complex or how many school-aged children occupy it.)

    Now, one can argue that having good schools is a “societal responsibility”, that we all benefit from.  However, I’m not sure that school districts can (always) count on that argument.

    Perhaps it’s time for parents to take a little more (direct) responsibility for these costs.  (Not sure how that would realistically be implemented.  However, if there weren’t as much tax deductions for having children, perhaps that money could be made available for schools.)

    Just my thoughts.

    1. Howard P

      Agree to an extent (MF/SF rates)…

      Disagree to the extent as to how much ‘skin’ parents put into the game… same educational opportunities should exist for a child from a family just scraping by, and an affluent family (came from near the former, surrounded by those of the latter)… my opportunities were good.  My parents also put non-financial ‘skin in the game’… they read to me very early, and so I had a second-grade reading/comprehension level when I hit kindergarten… they also reviewed my homework and made sure I did it.  All parents should.

      Also disagree with the “swap” as to income tax deductions… but nuanced…

      The income tax deduction for minor children does not reflect a proportional amount of the standard deduction for say, a childless couple… if you want to go there, suggest we eliminate all personal deductions… individual, couple, children… that would be logical… we could just adopt a tax code that exempted a certain amount of income from taxation, for instance.

      To think that $ would then be available for schools?  Yeah, you have already acknowledged your lack of understanding of how taxes work… it shows…

      1. Ron

        Hoard:  “The income tax deduction for minor children does not reflect a proportional amount of the standard deduction for say, a childless couple…”

        Please explain.  (That statement seems rather meaningless.) Also, please address ALL such deductions available, in your response.  (More importantly, are you stating that having and claiming children does not increase the amount of deductions for most couples?  If so, that’s just simply false.)

        Howard:  “To think that $ would then be available for schools?  Yeah, you have already acknowledged your lack of understanding of how taxes work… it shows…”

        I see no reason that this couldn’t be accomplished, if there was a political will to do so. (Of course, it’s not something that Davis can do on its own.)

         

         

      2. Howard P

        You’re dissembling, Ron… get real…

        “are you stating that having and claiming children does not increase the amount of deductions for most couples?”

        No, not stating that at all, and you know it, if you have an IQ above double digits… “most couples” one time true, not so much these days…

    2. Jim Hoch

      Anyone who owns property in the DJU catchment is benefiting from the schools reputation.

      Here is a good place to start.

      https://www.realtor.com/advice/buy/the-right-school-district-how-much-do-schools-affect-real-estate-prices/

      The interesting part is what is considered a “good” school. Usually this means that the children attending get a good education.  A good education is not mentioned at all by DJU  these days as they like to focus on “equity” or other issues. I suspect that people do not pay more for a house for “equity” as it generally indicates worse outcomes for students with educated parents.

      1. Keith O

        A good education is not mentioned at all by DJU  these days as they like to focus on “equity” or other issues.

        Great point, I hadn’t even thought about this until you stated it.  So true, instead of concentrating on the quality of education they’re giving it seems all we hear about are social issues.  It’s now creeping into our city planning talk too.

      2. Cindy Pickett

        I see social equity as being closely linked to achievement and educational outcomes. I like this definition of education, “Education is not simply a content delivery system; rather, it is a system designed to help all children reach their full potential and enter society as full and productive citizens.” The “all children” part means that we aren’t doing our job if some groups of children are consistently thriving in the school system while others are not. To me, a good education is one where the teaching, facilities, and other resources result in academic gains across the board from kids who are high-achieving to begin with to those with special needs, low socio-economic status, and language learning challenges.  And this requires social equity.
         
        Jim and Keith O — How would you define “good education?”

        1. Jim Hoch

          “Okay, I will. I think I must be missing something.”

          That would surprise me. If you want to know how schools are ranked and rated then real estate agents have this conversation constantly. They also have very candid discussions. If you know some high volume real estate agents ask them.

        2. Cindy Pickett

          LOL! I couldn’t tell if there was something deeper that I was missing. But sure, all the realtor sites point to the same factors: test scores, student-teacher ratio, teacher experience, parent involvement, special programs, and then there’s Hiram’s point about some parents seeking schools with a high concentration of kids of a certain social class or parental education level. I can see that these are the indicators that home buyers look at, but does this actually define what a “good education” is?

           

        3. Howard P

          If you want to know how schools are ranked and rated then real estate agents have this conversation constantly. They also have very candid discussions. If you know some high volume real estate agents ask them.

          Hype.  RE agents are “salespeople”, not fact-finders, truth-tellers (they don’t lie, but they do not go out of their way to warn “past results are no guarantee of future performance”)… it is what it is…

          Davis schools, compared to other school ‘districts’ (if you ‘correct’ for socio-economic factors) are a myth in their own mind.  They are good, very good, but correcting for their ‘draw’, then comparing to parochial/private/home schooling results, if you adjust for all the factors of ‘what they have to work with’, DJUSD is “not all that”… they’re on the whole, good and likely better than average… but there are folk in DJUSD who are less than average… for those who believe in the myth that DJUSD is full of heroes or super-heroes, you can choose “ignore commenter” and return your head to the sand and hide…

           

        4. Jim Hoch

          Howard, the question was “Jim and Keith O — How would you define “good education?”” My suggestion was to talk to real estate agents, not for what they say, but to ascertain what prospective home buyers ask them about regarding schools.

           

      3. H Jackson

        Jim Hoch:  The interesting part is what is considered a “good” school. Usually this means that the children attending get a good education.

        There is a very strong parallel between the ‘performance’ of a school — usually as quantified by average test scores on annual standardized tests, or something close to it — and the social class of the community, in particular the educational level of the parents.

        I am afraid that when some parents say, ‘we moved here because the schools are good’ that it is a euphemistic way of expressing, ‘we moved here because we like the high educational level of the community.’

          1. Don Shor

            We went to significant effort on an annual basis to transfer our children into DJUSD and had ample opportunity to compare it to the surrounding school districts as well as the private options.

        1. Jim Hoch

          ‘we moved here because we like the high educational level of the community.’

          Often but not always true. According to the 2000 census 95616 has >11% of the population with a PhD or higher while my previous district was at 3.8%. Yet the scores at my previous district were much higher and my kids were much further ahead in math.

          A good school is one where my kids learn about subjects that are important to them and also how to think.

        2. Cindy Pickett

          “A good school is one where my kids learn about subjects that are important to them and also how to think.”

          YES! When I teach research methods, my goal is to have the students leave the course knowing how to evaluate claims, reason logically, and become critical consumers of knowledge. It does seem like the new DJUSD English Language Arts adoption is focused more on reasoning skills. I was pleased to see that.
           

          1. Don Shor

            Gifted education and independent study were crucial for us and are much better supported (or were, anyway) in DJUSD than any nearby district. One of my kids did DSIS from 8th thru 12th. I consider King one of the most important schools in the district, even though it wasn’t what we ever needed or used.
            The range of opportunities — things like Spanish Immersion, the options like Japanese and Mandarin as foreign language choices. The extra-curricular activities like debate team. DaVinci was just getting going, but it’s a unique program that works really well for certain students. All these different options for ways to learn are part of what makes Davis schools outstanding.

        3. Jim Hoch

          Manhattan Beach? Yes, the parents had a very clear idea of the purpose of the school and social engineering was not part of it. Nor were they interested in programs that can be loosely grouped under “overcoming bad parenting”. Schools were to engage the mind in learning and exploration.

        4. H Jackson

          Jim Hoch:   According to the 2000 census 95616 has >11% of the population with a PhD or higher while my previous district was at 3.8%. Yet the scores at my previous district were much higher and my kids were much further ahead in math.

          First, the community demographics are often not the same as the public school demographics.

          But if you look at the district demographics of MBUSD v. DJUSD as broken down from the 20016 CAASPP scores, Manhattan Beach shows 92% of students coming from families with a bachelors degree or higher.  In DJUSD that number is about 80%.  If you look at proficiency rates in math by parent education level between the two districts, Davis students score at higher rates of proficiency (% of students scoring proficient or above) than MBUSD students, especially in the upper grades.

          If you don’t dis-aggregate the data, you can hide a lot of what is going on.

        5. H Jackson

          Jim Hoch:  ‘Yes, the parents had a very clear idea of the purpose of the school and social engineering was not part of it. Nor were they interested in programs that can be loosely grouped under “overcoming bad parenting”. Schools were to engage the mind in learning and exploration.’

          So if you look at the percentage of students from families without any college education, Manhattan Beach has 2%, and Davis has 9.3%.  With respect to school performance, low test scores correlate to lower levels of parent education.   Manhattan Beach USD population is, as a percentage, more highly educated than DJUSD.

          I think I went over this phenomenon with you in a comment thread elsewhere, and you actually asked me to provide you with links to support my assertion at that time. I thought you might have examined that by now. No?

        6. H Jackson

          H Jackson: If you look at proficiency rates in math by parent education level between the two districts, Davis students score at higher rates of proficiency (% of students scoring proficient or above) than MBUSD students, especially in the upper grades.

          I was in a hurry and left out some important clarification.  Meant to point out that for student with parent(s) having graduate level education or higher, then the proficiency rates in math are higher in DJUSD than MBUSD, and that rate tends to go higher for DJUSD in later grades.

  5. Howard P

    The correlation between quality of education and staff compensation is tenuous at best.

    If ‘we’ increased the compensation of the lowest performing district in CA by 100%, the likely result is that it would be the most highly compensated lowest performing district.

    1. Jim Hoch

      Howard, LAUSD is already running this experiment. In general lower preforming districts have worse cost control and comp is part of this. LAUSD is highly compensated and low preforming.

       

      My preference is to pay more than average but maintain control of personnel and NOT let the unions decide who teaches.

      1. David Greenwald

        The unions don’t decide who teaches.  The school district hires the teachers, the school district grants them tenure. Once they reach tenure, it becomes difficult to terminate them, but that is a decision of the district, not the union.

        1. Jim Hoch

          Apparently you are new to educational politics. How teachers are judged and under what circumstances they can be dismissed are covered, in detail, in the contract. This is why bad districts often have bad teachers. The unions can get a compliant board to sign a contract that makes it impossible to dismiss a bad teacher.

        2. H Jackson

          Jim Hoch:  “The unions can get a compliant board to sign a contract that makes it impossible to dismiss a bad teacher.”

          Many of the components of the contracts teachers work under are determined by state law, not local school boards.

        3. Howard P

          Components, yes… terms, no…

          The umbrella union, CTA, dictated much of the state dictates (via campaign contributions, lobbying, endorsements, etc.)… wake up and smell the coffee…

  6. H Jackson

    Blair Howard, from the article above:

    Because we’re providing seven periods.  That means we provide all these music classes.

    Music classes in secondary grades are typically more efficiently staffed than are other classes.  That means you can find 60-70 students in a band or orchestra class.  Having 60-70 students in nearly any other class (except maybe PE) would be a scandal.  If you get rid of the music program, then you lose the staffing efficiency.

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