In Support of Measure G


By Don Shor

I am writing in support of Measure G, the proposed parcel tax of $198 per property to raise approximately $3 million in order to fund teacher pay increases in the Davis Joint Unified School District.

Full disclosure? Ok.

I have been a resident of Solano County since 1976. So I don’t vote here. I am urging you to vote for Measure G.

I have owned the property that Redwood Barn Nursery is on in Davis since 1980. We pay property taxes on that. It was reassessed in 1990 when my original business partner retired, and has been under the Prop 13 increase cap since then.

Like other property owners, I pay the parcel taxes for the school district, library, open space, and landscape and lighting.

As a property owner in the Dixon school district, I also pay a parcel tax the voters there approved for the schools. So I pay in both districts.

My children always had day care in Davis, and enrolled in DJUSD as interdistrict transfer students in kindergarten because both parents worked in Davis. Neither of us worked for the school district or for UCD.

Interdistrict was automatic for several years until the district, facing capacity issues, decided to cancel the transfer agreements.

We had considerable discussion with the superintendent and his staff at the time, as it was quite clear to most observers that it was against state law to cancel all interdistrict agreements for students who had been enrolled here consistently. They proceeded anyway. They had no system in place for the process, so another parent and I helped them establish a procedure for throwing us out in a manner timely enough to allow us to appeal to the county board of education. Yes, we sat with the assistant superintendent and wrote the regs for how they could throw our kids out.

Most interdistrict parents simply left. Many of us who appealed had our appeals upheld and our children were allowed to continue here. In each case, the county board made it clear that they were judging the individual case and were not setting a precedent of allowing transfers. Our victory on appeal was reported in the Enterprise at the time, on the front page if I recall correctly. Oddly enough, the fact that our business paid parcel taxes was noted by the county trustees as a factor in their decision.

The parcel tax issue was raised, and the other parents repeatedly offered to pay it. We were repeatedly and firmly informed that we could not be compelled to pay it, that any payment couldn’t be construed as a parcel tax payment, and that they could only urge us to donate voluntarily through normal fundraising channels. Nevertheless, the parcel tax issue comes up again and again.

While my children were attending schools here, I was on the site council for DSIS and served on curriculum committees, and later served on a business advisory committee. All of the other parents who appealed were also active volunteers. Like the other parents, we donated what we could, where we could, to all the schools that asked for help.

Both kids enrolled in DSIS, one for two years and one for his entire secondary education. We also were in GATE and one child had an IEP (special ed). Our experience, based on their schooling and our investigation of the similar programs at Dixon, is that the Davis gifted and independent study programs were clearly superior. I will strongly advocate for those programs whenever necessary.

I don’t vote here. I pay the parcel taxes and would willingly pay more. Why? The teachers and programs are worth it.

DJUSD got my kids started in great directions toward their present careers. The foreign language courses especially proved crucial to my daughter’s career direction in the Marine Corps. Her talent in an unusual language (Japanese) showed the USMC that she could become proficient in something more complex than just the Spanish language offerings that she would have encountered in Dixon schools. She became a fluent certified Arabic linguist and served three tours of duty in western Iraq during the Gulf War. That led to a graduate program at Columbia in Middle Eastern studies. Paid for by the GI bill. They got their money’s worth out of her, and she got her money’s worth out of them. Hence my high regard for the Davis foreign language offerings.

GATE and DSIS gave my son the special learning modalities that worked for him; regular classroom teaching simply didn’t work. The Davis School for Independent Study is a model for individualized learning and taught him life skills that serve him every day in his current job. DSIS is a whole school in DJUSD, with many teachers and a whole part of the main school district headquarters allotted to them. The Dixon program for independent study at the time consisted of one teacher who handled all grades.

Those were just the unique Davis programs that worked for our kids. Other parents have similar stories about how the Davis schools provided something special, something more than the usual. Programs and teachers that made a difference. You don’t get those when you’re churning teachers due to low pay. You end up just training them and sending them off to other school districts.

It’s hard enough for teachers to live here. Let’s not disincentivize them further by paying them below regional averages.

Our present tax system for paying for education is complicated and not going to be reformed any time soon. This parcel tax is an honest attempt by the trustees to tell the voters, up front, what their money will be used for: bringing Davis teachers to parity with others in the region.

If you value the programs at Davis schools, you can show that you value the teachers by supporting this parcel tax. I can’t vote for it, but I support it and will be very willing to pay for it, even though my kids are long out of the schools here and it no longer benefits me in any direct personal way.

Go ahead and raise my tax bill, please. Great public schools benefit everyone, and it’s the teachers that make the schools great.


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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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25 thoughts on “In Support of Measure G”

  1. Ron Oertel

    Sorry to hear that there was (previously) an effort to throw out current students who moved out of the district, but wanted to continue their education at DJUSD.

    That’s not what’s occurring, anymore.  Now, it appears that there’s an effort to avoid right-sizing the schools to match the community’s needs.  Perhaps to the point of encouraging new enrollment, from outside the district.

    This damages (both) the “sending” and “receiving” districts – and ultimately – students, themselves.

    This is the third article (in as many days) which has the potential to go over the SAME issues, repetitively.

    1. Don Shor

      The complete reversal of the district’s situation regarding interdistrict transfers is an irony lost neither on me nor on the man who was superintendent at the time. We’ve joked about it, since he’s been a good customer since before he even was appointed to that position. I think he was as delighted as we were when our appeal was upheld. It’s not my main point here. I just thought it was germane in pointing out that, with regard to that issue, there is state law that pertains, the parcel tax can’t be paid by those parents, and the legality of it has never been settled.
      I agree that we don’t need to rehash the discussions about interdistrict transfers.
      My main point is the value of teachers and the benefits of providing pay parity to maintain the quality of the Davis schools.

    2. Richard McCann

      This is a useful addition to the discussion. It was NOT written by David and adds a very different perspective (albeit with the same conclusion.)

      As to “right sizing” schools, as I pointed out yesterday, it’s unlikely that the district could close a school by reducing the number of transfers. (And it’s unlikely that it could go completely to zero.) So given that situation and the fact that the marginal cost of serving a student is less than the average cost, then its cost effective to continue to allow transfers for now.

      BTW, which school do you propose to be closed? If you’re advocating for closure without being specific then you’re being disingenuous and just avoiding the hard decision created by your advocacy.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Richard:  Let’s discuss this further.

        I understand that DJUSD receives approximately $10,000 from the state for each student, which is $2,200 short of what is needed. 

        Since families of non-resident students don’t pay parcel taxes, each additional non-resident student that is added to DJUSD creates an additional $2,200 shortfall.

        And who has to make for that shortfall?

  2. Hiram Jackson

    Ron Oertel: “That’s not what’s occurring, anymore.  Now, it appears that there’s an effort to avoid right-sizing the schools to match the community’s needs.  Perhaps to the point of encouraging new enrollment, from outside the district.”

    The fact that Davis JUSD is attractive to families from outside the district, even when the district gets more limited funding from state and federal sources, is a sign to me that there is something appealing about the construction of our district — programs, offerings, opportunities.  It adds to the conversation about what kind of local schools to have when we get the feedback of enrollment choices.  If we close off out of district enrollment, we won’t necessarily get that direct feedback.

    I think there is a limit to how many out of district students would be acceptable to take, but I think it’s a higher threshold than we currently have.  You seem to lean toward having as few out of district students as possible, with 0 being the ideal.

    I believe our society functions better with some educational choices (within limits) for families to consider, including transferring to nearby districts.

    1. Ron Oertel

      I didn’t say that “0” was the ideal.

      However, one other consideration is that as the percentage of households with children decreases, and the percentage of out-of-district children increases, it’s likely going to be that much more difficult for the community to support additional DJUSD parcel taxes.

      That is, unless they “like” paying for the education of out-of-district kids (and paying the salaries of out-of-district teachers).

      In contrast, the community might support raises for teachers more willingly, if the schools were right-sized to match the community’s needs. (As a “bonus”, there might be more funds to do so, as the percentage of parcel-tax paying families increases.)

      I’d suggest a gradual process of “right-sizing”, which might also involve a reduction solely due to teacher retirements and “moving on” on their own.

        1. Ron Oertel

          You might want to ask Hiram (in his comment above) why he’s advocating more than the 700 that already exist.

          As I just noted (in my 10:44 a.m. comment above), each additional non-resident student adds another $2,200 annual “shortfall”.

        2. David Greenwald

          It’s more complicated than that.  First of all, the district even with the parcel tax doesn’t get to state average.  Second, the parcel tax does not add general fund money, it adds money for specific programs – 7th period, music, art, math, counseling, libraries, etc.  Third, parcel taxes are not per student under any circumstance.  So I don’t pay a parcel tax because I rent, my three kids how are students. The guy across the street pays the parcel tax even though he has no kids. The parcel tax remains the same whether I move in or out of the city.

          I would argue that it’s largely false to say that adding students increases the deficit – they don’t.  ADA pays for certain things.  Parcel tax pays for other things.  The problem is that we’re not getting enough in ADA to pay for salaries at competitive rates.

        3. Ron Oertel

          Third, parcel taxes are not per student under any circumstance. 

          There’s a shortfall of $2,200 for each student.  Why purposefully add to that deficit?

          $2,200 X 700 out-of-district students = $1,540,000 per year.

          If Davis voters were not already asked to make up that difference, one might wonder if they’d be more willing to approve a raise for the remaining teachers.

          So I don’t pay a parcel tax because I rent, my three kids how are students. 

          I believe that would depend upon the type of housing you’re renting, and whether or not the owner passes on those taxes to you.  I’m not sure, for example, if Affordable housing is subject to those taxes at all.

          There’s also another issue. Could it be that new out-of-district developments are not adequately planning their own facilities, to accommodate the 700 students? (Since Davis is willing to “foot the bill” for them?)

        4. David Greenwald

          I don’t think it’s an issue for most people voting on the parcel tax.

          The bigger problem is that we are getting less per student than we need from the state.  And we would need to run an additional parcel tax regardless.  Redistribute the parcel tax money and you still need to pass a parcel tax.  The ability of the district to eliminate those students is limited.

        5. Ron Oertel

          I don’t think it’s an issue for most people voting on the parcel tax.

          Unfortunately, that may be the case.  That is, those not subject to the tax can “stick it to” those who are – regardless of whether or not they’re “users”. (As the percentage of renters and those in Affordable housing grows, this type of outcome might occur more often.)

          The ability of the district to eliminate those students is limited.

          Regarding new enrollments, it’s entirely at the discretion of (both) the “sending” and “receiving” districts.  I would argue that there’s some built-in incentives (on both ends) for districts to pursue and advocate for outcomes that are not in either community’s overall interest.

          Ironically, this type of pursuit might ultimately backfire, regarding efforts to raise compensation levels. I guess we’ll see.

  3. Don Shor

    So the question is, how do we keep more of the current teachers that are here? The district invests in specialized training, but if they have a retention problem then the training is not used here.

    As an example, there was a robust debate about gifted education in the school district a couple of years ago. As they cut back the program, the superintendent basically promised that teachers would receive specialized instruction in differential education for students that would have been in GATE under previous guidelines who are now in regular classrooms. I’ve been curious about how that training is coming along, what percentage of DJUSD teachers now have training for mixed-ability classrooms. But if the teachers don’t stick around it isn’t to the benefit of the local students.

    Ultimately it would be great if housing could be more accessible to Davis teachers. It would be great if the tax funding of schools could be streamlined; there was a major step in that direction a few years ago, but there’s a long way to go. But those aren’t things the district trustees can control. They can seek to improve the pay structure for current teachers in the hope that retention will improve. That’s what this is about.

    1. Ron Oertel

      ” . . . in the hope that retention will improve. That’s what this is about.”

      Kind of the opposite, of what I suggested.

      Truth be told, I think that “right-sizing” is ultimately going to be forced upon the district.  They can either plan for it (via retirements and departures which aren’t necessarily replaced), or let it happen to them, while ignoring demographic shifts.  (Seems like they’re arguing for the latter, which doesn’t surprise me.)

      1. Ron Oertel

        Of course, this will be easier to accomplish, if there’s a simultaneous, gradual reduction (accomplished via the same method of “non-replacement”) of 700 out-of-district kids attending Davis schools. Whose families (with few exceptions) are NOT paying DJUSD parcel taxes.

        1. Ron Oertel

          O.K., but it is related to your comment regarding “teacher retention”. 700 fewer out-of-district kids would reduce the need for teachers and other staff (at least in the “recipient” district).

  4. Bill Marshall

    A different thought…

    Still don’t know what w’ll do on the vote, but we will take our Senior exemptions:  between property tax and State income taxes, we exceed the $10 k limits for deductions… so, we will take the exemptions (~ $1000), and either donate the ‘savings’ to DJUSD (if it qualifies as a charitable deduction), or to other charitable efforts, where we can at least don’t have to give the excess to the Feds.

    Y’all can thank the 2017 Tax reduction act, authored and pushed by the Republicans (particularly the $10 k cap, intended to punish “blue states”)…

    The District definitely had alternatives to the exemptions… like not having any…

    Now, I’d still like to hear about the justifications for the exemptions, preferably by the Board, or at least the Superintendent. 3 votes in March, depend on being convinced of the appropriateness of those exemptions, particularly the new one, for DJUSD employees, who include the well-compensated Super and senior admin staff.

  5. Don Shor

    There is no direct relationship between the income generated by the parcel taxes and the total enrollment. There is no direct relationship between the expenditures from that parcel tax income and the total enrollment, because the uses of the parcel taxes are specified. There is no direct  relationship between the parcel taxes and the ADA money the district receives.

    Neither increasing nor decreasing the enrollment will make more money directly available for teacher raises. Incoming interdistrict transfer students are accepted only on a space-available basis. If the school reaches capacity, they wouldn’t accept any more.

    If you reduce the number of students, you reduce the number of teachers. That doesn’t make more money available for the remaining teachers. If you increase the number of students, you increase the number of teachers. That doesn’t make more or less money available for the teachers.

    Many people pay the parcel taxes without having children in the schools.

    Many people have children in the schools and don’t pay the parcel taxes.

    Many parents of interdistrict transfer students pay parcel taxes where they reside.

    The only practical way to give teachers a raise, other than by cutting other expenditures somehow, is to increase the unencumbered revenues that the district receives.

    1. Ron Oertel

      There is no direct relationship between: 

      – the proposed salary increases and quality of education (I would hope). (However, it might improve the quality of teachers’ lives. Nothing inherently “wrong” with that.)

      – size of district / number of teachers, and quality of education.

      However, current efforts/direction are likely having negative impacts on both “sending” communities, and on “receiving” communitie$.

      1. Hiram Jackson

        Ron Oertel:

        There is no direct relationship between: 

        – the proposed salary increases and quality of education (I would hope).

        How do you determine that?

        1. Ron Oertel

          Well, I would hope that teachers wouldn’t put in a half-as*ed effort, if they fail to get a raise.  But you’re right – there’s no way to determine this – especially in a system that doesn’t necessarily “reward” good teachers (however that might be measured).

          Maybe a few more would leave over time, to correspond with the decline in the number of resident students.

          Personally, I’d rather see a dual comittment to “right-size” the size of the district over time, in connection with the proposed salary increase. A “win-win”, if you will. (If they did that, I probably wouldn’t be commenting about it at all, on here – except perhaps in support.) But, I can see that this ain’t a “happenin’ thing” – at least voluntarily.

          Instead, we’ll get some “new math”, which somehow claims that each new student is “saving” the district $2,200, rather than “costing” that same amount. 😉

        2. Hiram Jackson

          Ron Oertel:

          “Well, I would hope that teachers wouldn’t put in a half-as*ed effort, if they fail to get a raise.   But you’re right – there’s no way to determine this – especially in a system that doesn’t necessarily “reward” good teachers (however that might be measured).”

          This study that showed that paying extra to experienced teachers to move to a lower performing district (which couldn’t keep teachers) improved their results.   The story suggests that what is going on is merit pay, but what they describe not how “merit pay” works in the generally understood sense. Experienced teachers were paid more to transfer. Paying teachers more makes a difference in student performance.

        3. Ron Oertel

          I thought that the “complaint” is that DJUSD doesn’t pay teachers as much as those in lower-performing districts.  Since Davis schools are “superior”, it seems that paying them less improves performance.

          I’m just yanking your chain, at the moment.

          I don’t really enjoy arguing against a raise.  I’m looking at the bigger picture (e.g., other city needs, a school district resistant to changes in demographics, etc.). (Actually, that’s the same type of thing I see as a result of the city catering to UCD’s needs – at its own expense.)

          I think I’ve participated enough (or maybe “more” than enough) regarding this subject, for now. Have a good evening. 😉

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