Monday Morning Thoughts: Board Prioritizing Closing Teacher Compensation Gap

Teachers in October supporting closing the compensation gap

The school board had a good discussion last week on the prospects for closing the compensation gap.  For those who want the board to go outside the box – I don’t see it.  I think we are looking at an additional $250 to $300 a year parcel tax, as the district figures that each $100 per year parcel tax will generate about $1.5 million in revenue for the district, and they need probably $4 million to close the gap.

To say that they will look at a new parcel tax does not mean they won’t look at making some cuts – but the budget reality is such that the district does not believe it can do it based on cuts alone.

What was helpful was the discussion which put that $4 million into perspective.  Matt Best, Deputy Superintendent of Administrative Services, estimated that came to about 60 FTE (full time equivalent) positions.  We have previously talked about the fact that 85 percent of the district general fund budget goes to employee salaries already.

One idea was to cut seventh period, but the numbers really don’t bear that out.  Matt Best estimated that it would save about 3 to 3.5 FTE or $180,000 a year to cut seventh period at Davis High School.  He estimated another $300,000 if you cut seventh period from the junior highs.

So cutting seventh period would get you less than a one percent pay increase and Mr. Best warned, “Maybe.  Because sometimes when you make cuts like that there are actually negative externalities
that reduce your savings,” he said.

Board Member Alan Fernandes would ask “can you cut your way to wage gap and cut your way to better pay?”

Matt Best said, “Theoretical answer is yes.  But cutting 100 FTE would not be the district that we know.”  He said you would have to close schools, have larger campuses and class sizes.  We would have to cut the programs that make this district the district that we know.  And, he said, it would take five years to implement.

So the answer: “Theoretically yes, my answer is no.”

Alan Fernandes stated: “It could happen but it would fundamentally change the way our district looks and feels and the quality of education we are able to provide.”

So many have asked why would you continue to run Cadillac programs when you cannot afford the basics like competitive teacher pay?  I think the answer is that the board is unwilling to lessen the educational product in order to address the compensation gap.  The reality is that, while lack of competitive salaries is hurting the educational product, watering down our top-notch programs would undermine the reason for addressing the compensation gap in the first place.

Can the district look at a mixed approach?  The workshop on Thursday only looked at the revenue side, but, clearly, board members like Madhavi Sunder suggested the need to look at the cost side.

Alan Fernandes, who supported the larger parcel tax last year, had a similar thought.

Mr. Fernandes stated, “Before I do a parcel tax, I want to exhaust all our existing remedies.”  He said, “Going to the parcel tax option is a serious thing, it’s something we don’t take lightly.  It’s going to our community.  I for one am not afraid to do it, because I believe we need to do everything we can to close that wage gap.”

He added, “This is one of our best tools – maybe not the only tool.  Because tonight’s hearing is not about the cut side, it’s all about the revenue side of the equation.”

He later added, “I think our community supports our teachers and would do it.”

In the end, that’s the bottom line approach – the district believes that the community will support our teachers and I think they are right.  Time after time, the voters have stepped up over the last decade to increase the parcel tax.

The original parcel tax renewed in 2007 was just $100 a year.  Since then, the voters have moved it upwards to $620 a year.

In 2008, the school board, facing massive cuts, approved a new $120 a year parcel tax for the November ballot even though polling showed that at the $140 level, only 57 percent of the public would back the measure.  However, when the November results came in, over 70 percent of the voters ended up backing the parcel tax, which greatly reduced the need to cut teachers and programs.

This is going to be a large ask for the voters – especially if it is an additional $250 to $300 a year, but the budget numbers and the state funding reality suggest that this is the only way that the district is going to remain competitive.

As Mr. Best explained, the basic problem is that state funding through ADA (average daily attendance) and LCFF (Local Control Funding Formula) only comes to 87 cents on the dollar.  The district then makes up an additional 11 cents through the local parcel tax, but that has left two cents on the dollars as a “short fall” and he says over a 20-year period those numbers add up and partially explain why the district has fallen short on compensation.  In addition, the parcel tax money goes to programs rather than teacher compensation increases.

The other problem with the cuts approach is that Matt Best believes it would take probably five to eight years to do the cuts appropriately and be able to realize savings that could go into compensation.  That is too late to save the district – and, in fact, he is worried that the funding from the parcel tax would only be available at the earliest in June 2019, which means the district will have to figure out ways to increase compensation before then.

The bottom line is this: the district just doesn’t have the flexibility to cut due to the way that the budget is positioned.  They can do it at the margins, but even eliminating the seventh period would only get them about half a million – maybe.

The best tool that the district has is to go to the voters for another parcel tax – it is far from ideal, but is the best way forward at this point.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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

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.

Related posts


  1. Cindy Pickett

    In speaking with the teachers, I’ve heard from many of them that they would prefer teacher compensation to be an integral part of the DJUSD budget. In other words, competitive salaries should be “baked into” the budget plans.  When the district is making spending decisions, the question of how those expenditures would affect teacher pay should be part of the planning process. I think this is a good way to proceed going forward, but at this point, we need to consider how to close the gap immediately.

    Just yesterday, I received the following message from a friend who is a teacher in a neighboring district,

    “Hi Cindy.  I read the article on the Davis teacher pay gap.  It is a real big deal in trying to get good teachers in to the district.  I have been looking to leave [district redacted] since early this year.  However, doing so would mean taking a 15% to 25% pay cut plus even more in benefits in most districts here and in the East Bay.  Couple that with moving to a more expensive area and you can see how there is no incentive for experienced teacher to even consider Davis.”



  2. Mike Hart

    How about junking the nonsensical “seniority” system and pay teachers based on performance.  The ones that are terrible will be poorly paid and will leave.  The ones who excel will be paid like rock stars like they should be… There is plenty of money in the system- it is just wasted. An additional parcel tax is a dreadful idea.

      1. Mike Hart

        I don’t think that there is any general agreement that there is a “compensation gap” in the first place. It is common practice with public employee unions to do a regional survey in one location- show that there is a gap in wages for some position, raise the wages there, then go to another nearby location and now using the newly raised wages to justify further increases around and around in circles- screwing the public at every turn of the wheel. You know this kind of thing with the firefighter union better than anyone…

        1. Keith O

          I thought that you already questioned why our teachers are so underpaid when our revenue isn’t that much lower than other districts when current parcel taxes are considered.  Now think before you answer because you’re already on record and you know I’ll look it up.

          1. David Greenwald

            And we now have the explanation from the meeting the other night. Now the question is what to do about it.

        2. Howard P

          David… you miss the kernel of Mike H’s point… cities (except no longer in Davis) compare cities to cities… schools compare districts to districts.  Same same.

        3. Howard P

          David… don’t think you supported the City comparing positions to other Cities (compensation) for precisely the reasons Mike H cites.  Other school districts get more “cents” from the State.  Perhaps some of the comparison about school districts should be how much the State, and how much from district taxpayers… nah, that might expose some ‘inconvenient truths’… as would an examination of unfunded DJUSD/State liabilities under STRS.

        4. Howard P

          To your knowledge, perhaps… yet, the City has had to settle for folk with inferior qualifications and experience for over ten years, in many professional positions.  And had to offer above lowest step to get those.

        1. H Jackson

          Charter schools, as often operated by private and for profit entities, target students who are cheaper teach and find ways to keep out students who are more expensive to teach.  That is how they deal with “waste” in the system.  It becomes a race to the bottom.

        2. Tia Will

          if you can’t solve it a the local level it is perhaps time to embrace charter schools!”

          All charter schools are not created equal. If by “charter school” you mean those like Da Vinci, I completely agree. But if by “charter school”, you mean essentially any business that calls itself a school, is not responsible for accepting any child, can charge more than the vouchers will cover to allow some students to attend, and are not held to may recognized academic standard, then I cannot support them.

  3. Ron

    From article:  “For those who want the board to go outside the box – I don’t see it.”

    I agree.  That is, unless a proposed parcel tax fails.  Until such time, increased parcel taxes will continue to be the preferred approach.

    From article: “The reality is that, while lack of competitive salaries is hurting the educational product. . .”

    Could be, but no evidence presented that this is actually occurring.


        1. Keith O

          I’m sure there’s other Plan B’s that could be instituted.   I think a start would be getting rid of some/many executive positions and lowering executive pay.  And so what if Plan B takes a while to implement, we’ve got to start somewhere at some time or else homeowners are eventually going to get milked dry in this town.

        2. Ron

          At this point, it’s far more important to ensure that the city itself is more adequately funded (via parcel taxes that appropriately allocate costs between single-family dwellings, vs. apartment complexes).

          Voters have already approved school district parcel taxes, to the tune of hundreds per year (for each parcel).  And, unlike most of the services provided by the city, schools only directly benefit a limited segment of the population.

          It’s the city’s turn, now. Don’t let the schools continue to overshadow the city’s needs. (Hmm, reminds me of another public education institution that’s foisting costs upon the entire city.)

        3. Ron

          There already appears to be 4 separate school district parcel taxes on my tax bill, totaling about $1,300/year!  (Really, they want more?)

          Let parents step up directly in some manner, to help.

        4. Howard P

          Just so issues don’t get too confused…M-R assessments are for facilities, projects… it is true there was/is unfairness in how that was setup and administered [a family, living in Davis for 20+ years, while raising their family, then moving to a newer area within Davis paid “mucho” more for facilities than their children even had the benefit of of having available!]

          Operations and maintenance ‘shortfalls’ are paid by the parcel taxes [those beyond State funds].  Yet, rest assured, some of those monies went to salaries/compensation, under the guise of protecting programs… not just for teachers, but big time for administrators, including upper admin, who disproportionately benefited…

          Now, at least, there is a proposal that is honest enough to identify as being for staff compensation increases.

          I suggest, in order to get my vote, there be zero (yes, zero) increases in comp. for the entire term of the proposed measure, except for teachers, operational staff, and “line” admin staff… zero for all the Associate * of whatever, Superintendent, etc.

  4. Keith O

    When the new GOP tax plan gets approved it looks like state and local taxes are no longer going to be completely deductible.  Even if they’re partially deductible it won’t matter with the new proposed raise of the standard deduction to $24,000 most people are no longer going to itemize.  So any new or old parcel taxes are for the most part not going to be claimed as a deduction by a huge majority of taxpayers.  So claiming that local parcel taxes are tax deductible isn’t going to lower anyone’s tax bill for the most part.  They will pay the full brunt of the tax.

    1. Howard P

      You seem to missing something Keith… the term “tax-deductible” is misleading/misunderstood by many… it means that you won’t be taxed by state/fed for what you pay in other taxes, BUT if you pay $1000 in local assessments, your state/fed taxes will not be reduced by anywhere near the same amount.  If you are in a combined state/fed marginal tax bracket of 35%, you’re “out” $650.  If you can itemize.  If not, you’re out the full $1000…

      1. Keith O

        BUT if you pay $1000 in local assessments, your state/fed taxes will not be reduced by anywhere near the same amount.  If you are in a combined state/fed marginal tax bracket of 35%, you’re “out” $650.


        If you can itemize.  If not, you’re out the full $1000…

        Pretty much what I just wrote.  And most people will no longer itemize with the standard deduction going up to $24,000. (Married couples)

  5. Jim Frame

    The teacher pay gap is a concern for me, but I’m curious also about the relationship between total compensation of teachers and district administrators, both historically intradistrict as well as currently interdistrict.  I’d be interested in seeing low, median and high values for each over time in DJUSD, the corresponding current values in neighboring districts, and the ratio of total district admin compensation to total teacher compensation currently and historically for DJUSD.  The goal is to assess whether or not there’s a problem with admin compensation that might be affecting teacher compensation.

    This analysis might already have been done, so if it has I’d be grateful if someone would point me to a source.

    1. Howard P

      I fully agree with points made in first paragraph.  As to the second, no way… might reveal some “inconvenient truths”… Admin is, in effect, their own “union”… and they get to propose the budget (staffing levels in Admin, as well), and write the staff reports… damn powerful “union”…

      Historically, a principal was likely to be promoted to senior admin position, with less real responsibilities/accountability, and much greater compensation.

      You raise a good issue, Jim.

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