Council and School District Look at Ways to Work Together to Stabilize Enrollment, Address Housing for Young Families

Hands raised in front of a green chalkboard

Hands raised in front of a green chalkboardBy David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – At a recent two-by-two between the city and school district, Superintendent Matt Best presented the latest school district data on projections for declining enrollment while Vice Mayor Will Arnold and Councilmember Josh Chapman agreed to look into future ways for the city and school district to collaborate to increase housing for young families.

The data first laid out in the spring shows that since 2005-06 resident enrollment has declined by about 1244 students, or an average of 78 annually, and that trend, according to projections from Davis demographics, is expected to continue into the foreseeable future.

That trend has been largely but not fully offset by an increase in enrollment of students from outside the school district—those who live outside of Davis but attend school here, primarily because they have parents who work for the city, school district or university, many of whom cannot afford to live here.

Since 2005-06 that number has increased by 984 or 61 a year, but since 2008-09 the average increase has been 71 annually and that trend is also expected to continue.

“That number is growing over time,” said Best. “There were about 200 non-resident students in Davis Joint Unified in 2005 and currently there’s around 1,100.

“This district would look fundamentally different than it does today with 1,100 fewer students,” Best noted. “Really, we are filling the seats on a plane that have been vacated by resident students with non-resident students.”

However, he said, “the number of non-resident students can’t keep up with the decline of resident students, so that’s a really important thing for us to be thinking about as a community. This has implications on the district… our ability to offer excellent programs, neighborhood schools and schools where students can walk or bike easily.”

Vice Mayor Will Arnold deferred additional comment until the matter comes before the city council—possibly as soon as November.

From a fiscal standpoint, a consistent and prolonged decline in students would strain the school district’s finances.

Josh Chapman is concerned that at some point the district will reach “a saturation point” where “you’re not going to just continue to grow the number of interjurisdictional people coming here…  When you get to that point, what does that mean for Davis schools?”

Chapman noted that “the main reason why people move here is because of the quality of schools.  So I think that this issue has such a direct impact on families across the town in general.”

This is one area where the city has a direct impact on the school district.  And of course this all comes back to housing.

Chapman said, “What we talked about the in meeting was how do we get more proactive when it comes to housing in this community?  And how do we grow the number of families that are, that are living here who have school-aged children so that they can attend schools here and can be part of this community?”

The council members were open to having the school district come and make a presentation to the full city council on this.

Councilmember Chapman said, “In my opinion, this directly is related to the lack of housing that we have in our community and specifically affordable housing.”

For Josh Chapman there needs to be a connection between “what we treasure in our community—greenbelts, parks and our schools” and his “fundamental piece around the quality of our schools, the number of students that we have here, and the ability for families to move here to make our community more inclusive is really kind of at this point—where we’re at the tipping point.”

Chapman noted, “I think there are tools that the city can use and that we can put into play that can spur some development.”

He believes such a conversation really needs to be led by the city council with input from the community around what they want to see.

The Vanguard has frequently noted that there has been a silo approach to these issues.  The school district is viewed in one silo and the city is viewed in another, but there is really an interaction between the two.

“This is one of the things that we can hopefully, can work together on,” Chapman said. “What does that mean?  How do we free up some housing for families to move into them? But again, those are market rate houses.  So how do we step back and what does the city do that we have control over? That we can partner with the district and we can partner with other organizations to step back and look at what some of our assets are. We want to really take an opportunity to step back and analyze what we have here in the community.”

Affordable housing units are a big part of this picture, which would allow people to move into, with a great benefit to the school district.

Chapman talked about the downtown plan, but also looking at what land the city has and looking at partnering with groups on some type of RFP (Request for Proposals) that “could then be used to build some affordable housing on it.”

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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23 Comments

      1. Bill Marshall

        The problem is the trend – losing 71 students a year

        Why is that a “problem”?

        Just another version of “climate change”?

        The “climate” will change… cyclical… it has happened before, and will happen again…

        If the DJUSD needs to ‘downsize’ while serving the remaining students, that really only affects DJUSD employees, their compensation…

        Don’t understand your point that ‘it is a problem’… might just be cyclical or just might be an ‘evolutional’ thingy… same goes for ‘climate change’ in general…

        1. David Greenwald

          They would have to constantly contract, which is difficult, because you end up losing about 60 cents on the dollar you save. The quality of the schools will go down as they have to contract because it will mean they have to drop programs.

    1. Richard_McCann

      Yes, shrinking a school district without shattering its program quality IS rocket science. DJUSD provides the highest education quality in the Central Valley by many different metrics. It is able to offer a wide range of classes and activities that require maintaining a certain level of student enrollment. Reducing enrollment will undermine those offerings and reducing educational quality.

      As a homeowner, you should be very concerned about education quality here, even if you don’t have children in school. Much, if not most, of the house value premium over neighboring cities comes from the difference in education quality. This differential has been very well document in the economics literature.

      1. Keith Y Echols

         It is able to offer a wide range of classes and activities that require maintaining a certain level of student enrollment.

        I don’t completely buy that.  This whole thing is predicated on the simplistic idea that the ONLY answer for providing good quality public education is to pump more (and what appears to be a loss leader) students into the system.  This monolithic view of school district finance is that students are the only source of revenue for the school district.

        1. David Greenwald

          I tend to agree with your point in theory. The problem is – right now there are two classroom funding streams – (A) Average daily attendance from the state and (B) Parcel Tax locally. So in terms of state money and general fund, yes, it’s pretty much students equals money.

        2. Ron Oertel

           tend to agree with your point in theory. The problem is – right now there are two classroom funding streams – (A) Average daily attendance from the state and (B) Parcel Tax locally. So in terms of state money and general fund, yes, it’s pretty much students equals money.

          A)  The district spends more per student than it receives from the state.

          B)  The parcel tax is not based upon the number of students.

          I”ll go ahead and add a “C” as follows:

          C) The district’s financial problems are not the “city’s” problems to solve. Perhaps some of the council members (who believe otherwise) should have run for a school board position, instead.

        3. Keith Y Echols

          Just off the top of my head, the greatest asset the School Districts have is real estate and facilities.

          One thing they could do is build housing on some of their land.  Say they built 100 units.  40 of them are market rate rentals; which is where the revenue stream comes from.  The district sells 9 units for immediate money or to help finance the construction.  36 are workforce rental homes reserved for teachers.  15 are low income affordable rentals

          The new Multi Purpose Rooms (MPRs) that were recently built at many of the elementary schools are big rooms with a stage.  They are perfect for hosting parties and receptions.  Facilities rentals could be done for small parties and occasions like graduation parties and maybe some weddings.

          The school facilities and yard could be used for a profitable afterschool and summer time child care program.  Catalyst Kids and Kids Club child care programs are usually full with waiting lists.  So the school could offer a an alternative for child care and make some money.

          I dunno…just spit balling ideas.  But I think there needs to be plans for alternative revenue streams to supplement student attendance and the parcel tax.

  1. Matt Williams

    I have debated this issue too many times on the Vanguard and for some reason it doesn’t sink in. There are those who believe that if you just get rid of the out of district transfers, and right size the school district, you can solve the problem of declining enrollment.

    .
    There is a significant disconnect between today’s article on this topic and today’s Vanguard Premium Newsletter e-mail, which starts with the quote above.  The disconnect revolves around the seventeen bolded words, which appear in the e-mail Newsletter, but for some strange reason don’t appear in the article.

    If that statement was good enough for the Newsletter, why wasn’t it included in the article?

    My personal observation is that I have never heard anyone say or even imply that DJUSD should “get rid of the out of district transfers.”  I personally can’t imagine any compelling reason for taking that drastic step.  So I ask the Vanguard, where have you heard that said, and who has been saying it?

    Chapman noted, “I think there are tools that the city can use and that we can put into play that can spur some development.”

    He believes such a conversation really needs to be led by the city council with input from the community around what they want to see.

    .
    It appears that Josh Chapman believes the City and community should have a Vision for (1) what it currently is, (2) where it is currently headed, and (3) what it wants to be in 5, 10, 20 years.  The City has been delaying and delaying and delaying and delaying any effort to start the process of agreeing on such a Vision and updating its General Plan.  Perhaps Chapman can transform delay into action.  Nobody else has been able to do so.

     

    1. David Greenwald

      “If that statement was good enough for the Newsletter, why wasn’t it included in the article?”

      Because that was a statement of opinion (my opinion), and this is isn’t an opinion piece.

      1. Matt Williams

        “There are those who believe that if you just get rid of the out of district transfers” is an opinion?  It certainly comes across as a factual repeating of something you have been told multiple times.

        1. David Greenwald

          It’s more along the lines of a statement that comes in an editorial and than a straight news story. But all of this is a good reminder that the district really needs to much more proactively explain the dangers of declining enrollment.

    2. Richard_McCann

      Matt

      My personal observation is that I have never heard anyone say or even imply that DJUSD should “get rid of the out of district transfers.” 

      Ron O has constantly harped over and over on getting rid of interdistrict transfers. Along with claiming that Davis doesn’t need to address its housing cost crisis, this is one of his most frequent comments.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Ron O has constantly harped over and over on getting rid of interdistrict transfers.

        True – I did say that, for several reasons.  One of which is that the district spends more money per student than it receives from the state.  They are a “fiscal loser” for the city. As such, I don’t believe that Davis should be paying for the education of non-residents.

        The other (primary) reason is that it’s just another way that the district is attempting to avoid right-sizing.  Which doesn’t particularly bother me, until they try to make the city “grow” to avoid right-sizing.  (Which as David noted, those at the district and on the council are now inconceivably attempting to do.)

        Is “growing the city” (so that the school district doesn’t have to right-size) actually what Davis voters want their representatives to do?

        Along with claiming that Davis doesn’t need to address its housing cost crisis, this is one of his most frequent comments.

        And yet, you’re the one (not me) who just said that Davis should prioritize its schools for the purpose of protecting home values:

        As a homeowner, you should be very concerned about education quality here, even if you don’t have children in school. Much, if not most, of the house value premium over neighboring cities comes from the difference in education quality. This differential has been very well document in the economics literature.

        DJUSD provides the highest education quality in the Central Valley by many different metrics.

        “Many” is not “all”.

        It is able to offer a wide range of classes and activities that require maintaining a certain level of student enrollment. Reducing enrollment will undermine those offerings and reducing educational quality.

        By “poaching” students from other districts, it is likely reducing educational quality in those other districts.

        What happened to “no child left behind”?  Or, do you (and the school district) only care about those who have the ability to transfer out of their own district?

        1. Bill Marshall

          They are a “fiscal loser” for the city. As such, I don’t believe that Davis should be paying for the education of non-residents.

          No…  not a fiscal loser for the City… DJUSD is NOT an entity subject to the City of Davis controls, nor financing… it is a separate entity…

          [edited]
          DJUSD and the City of Davis have different boundaries.

          [edited]

    1. Bill Marshall

      Although I believe the JeRkeD measures are stupid/wrong, I see no reason to reverse natural trends …

      But I’m not a teacher, DJUSD Administrator, whose ‘bread is buttered’ by enrollment… excellent response towards, “I want more compensation!”

      Education of kids, by competent teachers, and parents, is ‘dead dog serious’ as to being a high priority... but filling classrooms (for the sake of that), or justifying high compensation for teachers/Administrators is not, IMNSHO

      “Funny” how some folk want to make sure DJUSD folk are “richly compensated”, have ‘job security’, and at the same time want the folk who provide water, sewage, drainage, public safety folk to take cuts… and no job security… the biggest “cuts” to personnel in Davis, were from street maintenance, and tree/park maintenance over the past 15+ years…

  2. Keith Y Echols

    This is a fiscal problem.  So the school enrollment either needs to increase or shrink.  But all we hear is grow! grow! grow!  Grow to what end?  What’s the fiscal target?  What’s the educational services target?  Grow to what point?  How is that optimal?   Shrinking the enrollment seems to be a taboo subject for some reason.  I get that it would be painful because it would be initially inconvenient for some students and families and put some teachers and administrators out of work.   And the school district fiscal problem (while tangentially related)  has been confused and conflated city housing needs (or lack of needs depending on the specifics and  your point of view).   I’m fine if someone can produce an analysis that says X number more students will allow the district to reach optimal fiscal and educational efficiency.  That’s fine.  I’d even believe it.  But like I said, all I hear is grow! grow! grow! without a target or plan.  And I think a balanced perspective needs to be considered….and that balance means the possibility of shrinking the school enrollment and schools if it could mean a better fiscal and ultimately educational experience for the students.

    About a week ago I posted info on the efforts of the state and school districts to develop housing for teachers (which no one seemed interested in reading or commenting).  The state has put in place means for school districts to get their own developments for teacher housing processed and approved on the fast track.  I posted links to stories of some school districts in California that have created teacher housing.  To me it seems obvious that the school district (and the city) could create revenue streams for itself as landlords AND provide affordable housing for it’s employees.

      1. Keith Y Echols

        Retain as many of the existing course offerings as possible.

        Seems to me that there has to be a more efficient way of getting the course offerings wanted without simply thoughtlessly pumping more students into the school district.  It seems to me that revenue and funding is the issue.  I suggested one way to generate more revenue.  There has to be others.  Because right now it appears fiscally speaking that students are a loss leader.

        It appears that the district is desperately trying fil a bucket with a hole in it without telling us how they plan to fill the hole.

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