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