If We Are An Average Funded District, Why Do We Have a Compensation Gap?

Answer: We Aren’t Average Funded

On Friday, the parcel tax subcommittee of Alan Fernandes and Joe DiNunzio met and listened to a budget presentation by Bruce Colby.  The take-away point is that when we take into account the parcel tax, it appears that we are nearly an average funded district.  But we’re not.

“I don’t like any longer like to say we’re an average funded district,” Alan Fernandes explained at the conclusion of the meeting. “Because we’re not.”

If we look at funding per student from 2016-17 – that’s the most recent it was available, Bruce Colby pointed out – the figures don’t change drastically year to year, and the result is the average district in the state was receiving $12,228 per student.

At DJUSD, even with the parcel tax, it was $11,582 or about 95% of state average.  While that seems reasonable, without the parcel tax that amount drops to $10,333 (84.5%).

The key take-away point, however, is that while the parcel tax appears to take DJUSD from 84.5% of the state average to 95% of state average, it is somewhat of an illusion.  The parcel tax is not just general fund money.  It has already been allocated to fund specific programs that other districts have decided not to fund.

Comparing Davis to other local districts, most – whether they are Woodland, Washington (West Sac), Vacaville, Dixon or Natomas – are getting far more in LCFF (Local Control Funding Formula) funds.

One comparable district is Rocklin.  They get about the same amount as Davis from LCFF – but Davis adds $1249 per student in the parcel tax to nothing from Rocklin.

Rocklin, Mr. Colby explained, does not have librarians, they have one nurse, and they have a very high counseling ratio of one counsel for every 700 students.

A huge difference is the amount of restricted specific education staff.  Basically they are not running a special education inclusion program – so special education students are not mainstreamed for the majority of the time.

As Joe DiNunzio put it, “We as a district have made the decision that this approach is right for us – and this is the fallout of that.”

While Davis is disadvantaged by LCFF, Mr. DiNunzio agreed that’s how it is supposed the be.  “The formula is supposed to be equity based,” he said.  “It is fair that those districts are getting more – it takes more resources to address their populations.”

He stated, “I want to put to rest this notion that we should be getting more from the state.”

However, as Matt Best pointed out, it could be argued that even $12,000 per pupil is not sufficient.  On the east coast, as Bruce Colby pointed out, that base number is more like $17,000.

But that means if Davis wants to retain its programs and the things that the parcel tax purchases, then it will have to find a way to generate additional revenue if it also wants to close the compensation gap.

“The parcel tax money is very targeted, it mostly pays for teachers,” he explained.  “Our community has decided that’s the priority.”

Matt Best put it this way: “The parcel tax funds programs that generally districts like us don’t have.”

Some of the key take-away points here are:

We have below average funding from the state and federal sources.  The parcel tax funding funds specific programs and we have made the decision to fund things that other district do not.  Even with the parcel tax, we are about 5% below the spending of other districts – that right there is at least part of the teacher compensation gap.

The other part is due to the fact that when funding drops, programs get cut at other districts.  When funding increases, instead of restoring those programs, they will often put it into teacher compensation.

For the most part the parcel tax has targeted “enriching programming” and most of the funding goes to teachers.  About one in five teachers are funded through parcel tax money.

The parcel tax “supports diverse programs” but it does not provide provisions to inflate salaries on 10 percent of the teacher population.

The LCFF is fair in terms of overall equity, but it is less beneficial to DJUSD.

Overall, funding in California “is inadequate for what we all believe should be happening.”

The bottom line is once this mechanism is understood, the district is not an average funded district or even a typically 5% below average funded district.  Rather, the parcel tax locks in those programmatic priorities.

The district does have the option of changing what the parcel tax funds – but Joe DiNunzio has repeatedly argued that most people in this district support those priorities, such as smaller class sizes, and would not be willing to make that trade off.

Alan Fernandes continued to argue that we need to think of this district as not having average funding, “because we’re not funded at the state average.”

—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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  1. Ron Glick

    He stated, “I want to put to rest this notion that we should be getting more from the state.”

    Maybe he should say I want to put to rest the notion that we are going to get more from the state. Of course we should be getting more from the state. We are only getting 84% of what the average district gets. I’ll accept that as the reality but I don’t think we should accept it as fair to our staff or expect that it is going to allow us attract and retain people who have better options.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Will be interesting to see what give-backs Sac City schools will have to get from unions, programs, etc., to avoid receivership by the State.  Even with this information, it could be much, much worse…

      I agree wholeheartedly with Ron, in part,

      Of course we should be getting more from the state. We are only getting 84% of what the average district gets. I’ll accept that as the reality but I don’t think we should accept it as fair…

      Apparent ironies… we do not consider DJUSD as ‘average’, but ‘exceptional’… that latter term cuts both ways… by our parcel tax supports, we are exceptional… perhaps the state figures, “thank you for your donations, we obviously don’t need to fund you as much… we can spent the money elsewhere, where they do not have local support.”  Don’t know, but wouldn’t surprise me.  Also wouldn’t surprise me that if we increase parcel taxes, the State will decrease DJUSD funding, same rationale.

      What happened to the Serrano-Priest decision?  Or is the current discrepancies in funding by the State a reflection of that?   I know not… perhaps others reading this do.

      1. David Greenwald

        In terms of amount from the state – I think the key point raised was that the distribution was equitable, the overall amount was too low.

        The term average is probably a dangerous one to use – the input or funding is below average, the “exceptional” part is the output, rather than the input.

      2. Richard McCann

        Serrano-Priest is the reason for the difference. We are a relatively wealthy community (don’t argue with–it’s the state’s definition) and the difference in funding is intended to make up some for that advantage.  Wealth and education of family households is the single biggest driver of student success. Teaching staff quality only makes up a small portion of success. And Davis parents are very involved in their children’s education.

        1. Jim Hoch

          Serrano v. Priest is the root cause for our current problems. By moving school funding away from local officials who were susceptible to pressure into the legislature which has other priorities CA has fallen further and further behind in funding levels.

          Legislators know they don’t get into the news by funding K12. It’s too far away from them and they prefer to spend money on whatever will generate headlines.

  2. Sharla Cheney

    How many special education kids are we serving and how much for each student?  Is this money being well-spent for the benefit of the student?  How many are we paying for private school because full inclusion isn’t appropriate or serving them well and have no alternatives within the District? Couldn’t we ask for more money from the State to off set the additional expense of this program?  Would a better, more cost effective program be a self-contained program within the District, instead of private placement?  Is it required that we hire one paraeducator for each full-inclusion student?  Are there any inter- District transfers of students needing these services?

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