Every election year it seems we run into the same scenario—there are 10,000 more ballots to be counted, it’s a relatively close outcome, therefore, we have to wait to call the race. The problem is that math works against that being the case.
It is one thing if you are watching presidential returns in, say, Ohio, and Cuyahoga County still hasn’t come in (that’s the bluest and largest county in Ohio) and you want to see what happens once those ballots are counted. That type of dynamic can alter the outcome.
But the late ballots in Davis tend to reinforce the outcome on election day and tend to be distributed fairly evenly throughout the city.
When we ran the numbers on election day, they were stacked against Measure G passing. The measure got 66.9 percent of votes cast on election day. That means that it would have passed, based just on election day votes. The problem is—there weren’t enough of them to overcome the initial 63.9 percent of the vote the measure got.
Even with 10,000 more votes, the measure will come up about 118 votes short, at 65.9 percent. And it would take 68.8 percent for those last 10,000 to win.
You see what’s happening here? Sixty-eight point eight percent is significantly higher than what the measure got on election day, and without a change in the voter pool, it’s unlikely to happen. There is one plausible scenario that could be a factor—the provisional ballots might end up being more strongly pro-Measure G, but I would consider that a longshot.
Mostly likely then, Measure G isn’t passing and the board needs to plan accordingly. When I spoke to Joe DiNunzio last week, he didn’t want to consider that eventuality, and Alan Fernandes was quite a bit more optimistic than me about the passage and also the future prospects of parcel taxes.
For Alan Fernandes, the results so far don’t mean that the community is not supporting local public education.
“It doesn’t mean it wasn’t the will of the community that this occur,” he said, noting how high a threshold two-thirds really is. “It’s not just a majority. It’s not just a 55 percent requirement in state law. It’s not even a 60 percent requirement, it’s a super super majority. It is a standard that is so high that falling within an arm’s distance away, doesn’t indicate it was a will of the community at all.
“I view it as very much the will of the community that our teachers are compensated, and its willingness,” he said.
Instead, he believes “it is a matter of us to educate the public on how state law is situated where they are willing to allow a lower threshold (55 percent) to invest into buildings by a facilities bond, but when it comes to investing into people and programs and education of our kids, for whatever reason, the legislature and the powers that be haven’t caught up to what are the needs of the community.”
I get why he thinks that way—I just don’t agree. Throughout the election some of my more conservative friends have suggested that Davis has been overtaxed and voters have had enough. The polling really suggested we were moving in that direction.
I supported Measure G mainly because it was the best of the bad options for the school district, but privately I have been concerned for some time.
This was actually the very point I was attempting to make in 2018 when I threw my name in the hat for a temporary appointment to the open seat. At that time I warned the board that we were nearing the end of the ability of the board to raise local funding.
The problem for education in Davis is a confluence of factors. First, the state of California does not spend enough on education. As we showed with our piece a few months ago, California is spending $12,000 or so per pupil while states on the east coast are spending 50 to 100 percent more. And even that $18,000 to $24,000 pales in comparison with what we spend per year, per college student—or per year, per inmate.
But Davis faces a double whammy. Not only does the state not spend enough on education, but we are disadvantaged within that allocation of state funding. We get 79 cents on the dollar. With a parcel tax, we get close to the average—95 cents on the dollar, but we have prioritized programs over salaries.
I respect those who want to do a deep dive again into what the district is paying for administrators, programs it may not need, etc. I believe I have examined the issue enough to conclude that there is not enough there to make a difference.
I read the arguments from the opposition. A lot of those arguments were shrouded in ignorance—everything from average teacher salaries without accounting for longevity and lack of awareness of how funding can be raised and how money can be allocated.
Bottom line is that two years ago I feared that we were about to lose our great schools and worried that the community was unaware of the danger. I go even further: I think the quality of life from schools to the city infrastructure to city services is, over the next ten years, going to basically fall off a cliff.
We have more ways to stop this problem on the city front than the schools front, but it’s coming across the board. We are largely hamstrung on education—we are not getting enough from the state, the state is not allocating enough for quality public education and our local remedies are not only limited, they are dwindling.
I get it, we can take solace in the fact that nearly 66 percent of the voters were willing to back another parcel tax. But that’s, in a way, fool’s gold. The reality is two-thirds threshold is incredibly high and, as this community becomes more bifurcated away from families of child-rearing age, it will become harder and harder to get two-thirds of the voters to back additional taxes.
—David M. Greenwald reporting