Schools Across the Region Still Face Budget Problems

We learned a week and a half ago that the Davis Schools had adverted a catastrophe in terms of cutbacks of over a hundred teachers, and draconian cuts to programs and even the closure of schools.

The Davis Joint Unified School Board had achieved that based on the strong work that the Davis’ School Foundation had done in raising over $1.7 million in order to buy back teachers. In addition, the May revise to the Governor’s budget was far less harsh to education funding.

Nevertheless, there was a big article in Monday’s Sacramento Bee that schools have still come up short in the Governor’s latest budget.

“Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s May budget proposal gives more money to schools than he suggested in January, and meets the minimum guarantee schools are owed under state law. And his latest proposal increases school spending next year by $200 million over this year – but it’s an amount education advocates say is paltry compared with their needs.”

For example, the latest proposal does not take into account inflation–things like the rising cost of gasoline, health care, and teacher raises. As a result schools across the region are having to make cuts.

Reading the Sacramento Bee article, you see some of the same things happening across the region as happened in Davis. Programs are cut. Parents and students protest the cutting of programs. Teachers are put on the block to be cut. Classes are cut back on in an effort not to lay off as many teachers.

For instance Elk Grove:

Elk Grove Unified took another tack. Originally, the district proposed laying off kindergarten and high school teachers and making classes bigger. But after a firestorm of opposition from parents of kindergartners, it is keeping small classes for its youngest students and increasing class size only for high schoolers. The district will lay off 50 teachers at its high schools, for a savings of $1.6 million.

Elk Grove Unified is also getting rid of all teaching coaches, to cut another $1.9 million from its budget. The 28 coaches work with teachers on their classroom techniques. Associate Superintendent Richard Odegaard said the extra training they provide is one reason the district’s students are meeting No Child Left Behind’s test score targets.

“Getting rid of the coaches – that’s like eating your seed corn,” he said. “They’re part of the reason we’ve had success.”

Meanwhile Natomas has been more innovative. They have trimmed their budget without laying off any teachers. First they postponed opening their new middle school, saving $1.2 million.

But the more interesting thing they are doing is improving the food they offer in hopes that more kids will buy lunch at school, thus reducing the amount of money needed by the district to keep the cafeteria afloat.

Natomas is also trying to save money on school lunches by improving the food it offers at its high schools. The hope is that with tastier choices, more kids will buy lunch and offset the money the district now spends to keep cafeterias afloat. The district is looking at opening Mexican or Italian food stations at Natomas High.

“More students will simply buy lunch,” said Superintendent Steve Farrar. “We’re hoping (they) will not bring lunch from home.”

Tough times for all, but as we see Davis is not unique in this regard.

Cuts and fundraising work in the short term. Districts like Davis might be able to raise taxes to continue to provide high level of services, but the state really needs to look more closely at means by which they can divorce funding from the ebbs and flows of the economy. And they need to find a way to allow districts more easily to raise local revenues.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

Author

  • David Greenwald

    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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Categories:

Budget/Taxes

112 comments

  1. Do you know that the national average annual spending per prisoner is in excess of $20K? Here in Davis we spend about $8,700 per student annually, just slightly under state average.

    I guess that suggests where the political priorities are in this state.

  2. Do you know that the national average annual spending per prisoner is in excess of $20K? Here in Davis we spend about $8,700 per student annually, just slightly under state average.

    I guess that suggests where the political priorities are in this state.

  3. Do you know that the national average annual spending per prisoner is in excess of $20K? Here in Davis we spend about $8,700 per student annually, just slightly under state average.

    I guess that suggests where the political priorities are in this state.

  4. Do you know that the national average annual spending per prisoner is in excess of $20K? Here in Davis we spend about $8,700 per student annually, just slightly under state average.

    I guess that suggests where the political priorities are in this state.

  5. wdf raises a valid point- that we spend so much more on prisoners than we do on students.

    Does it just come down to union approaches”

    On one hand we have the all-powerful prison guard union who have focused their political capital on increasing their numbers and revenue per guard. The plowed their gains back into gifts and lobbying for politicians to gain more power. They now fight any initiative that would reduce our number of prisoners, legalize many victimless crimes etc.

    The teacher’s union, on the other hand appear to spend much of their efforts on protecting the marginal teacher and heavily protecting seniority- much to the detriment of the student. In Davis, some layoffs might have been well warranted, but the ones who needed to go are well-protected by the union, exposing the youngest, and often the best new teachers to firing first.

    Add to this the police and fire unions and you can quickly see the problem- the organized unions have the ability to vote themselves bread and circuses in California. And how can anyone criticize a teacher, guard, fireman or policeman? They represent the vast majority of the budget, and they are essentially untouchable.

    How about at least recognizing that unions are the key problem as the first step in fixing what is wrong with this state?

  6. wdf raises a valid point- that we spend so much more on prisoners than we do on students.

    Does it just come down to union approaches”

    On one hand we have the all-powerful prison guard union who have focused their political capital on increasing their numbers and revenue per guard. The plowed their gains back into gifts and lobbying for politicians to gain more power. They now fight any initiative that would reduce our number of prisoners, legalize many victimless crimes etc.

    The teacher’s union, on the other hand appear to spend much of their efforts on protecting the marginal teacher and heavily protecting seniority- much to the detriment of the student. In Davis, some layoffs might have been well warranted, but the ones who needed to go are well-protected by the union, exposing the youngest, and often the best new teachers to firing first.

    Add to this the police and fire unions and you can quickly see the problem- the organized unions have the ability to vote themselves bread and circuses in California. And how can anyone criticize a teacher, guard, fireman or policeman? They represent the vast majority of the budget, and they are essentially untouchable.

    How about at least recognizing that unions are the key problem as the first step in fixing what is wrong with this state?

  7. wdf raises a valid point- that we spend so much more on prisoners than we do on students.

    Does it just come down to union approaches”

    On one hand we have the all-powerful prison guard union who have focused their political capital on increasing their numbers and revenue per guard. The plowed their gains back into gifts and lobbying for politicians to gain more power. They now fight any initiative that would reduce our number of prisoners, legalize many victimless crimes etc.

    The teacher’s union, on the other hand appear to spend much of their efforts on protecting the marginal teacher and heavily protecting seniority- much to the detriment of the student. In Davis, some layoffs might have been well warranted, but the ones who needed to go are well-protected by the union, exposing the youngest, and often the best new teachers to firing first.

    Add to this the police and fire unions and you can quickly see the problem- the organized unions have the ability to vote themselves bread and circuses in California. And how can anyone criticize a teacher, guard, fireman or policeman? They represent the vast majority of the budget, and they are essentially untouchable.

    How about at least recognizing that unions are the key problem as the first step in fixing what is wrong with this state?

  8. wdf raises a valid point- that we spend so much more on prisoners than we do on students.

    Does it just come down to union approaches”

    On one hand we have the all-powerful prison guard union who have focused their political capital on increasing their numbers and revenue per guard. The plowed their gains back into gifts and lobbying for politicians to gain more power. They now fight any initiative that would reduce our number of prisoners, legalize many victimless crimes etc.

    The teacher’s union, on the other hand appear to spend much of their efforts on protecting the marginal teacher and heavily protecting seniority- much to the detriment of the student. In Davis, some layoffs might have been well warranted, but the ones who needed to go are well-protected by the union, exposing the youngest, and often the best new teachers to firing first.

    Add to this the police and fire unions and you can quickly see the problem- the organized unions have the ability to vote themselves bread and circuses in California. And how can anyone criticize a teacher, guard, fireman or policeman? They represent the vast majority of the budget, and they are essentially untouchable.

    How about at least recognizing that unions are the key problem as the first step in fixing what is wrong with this state?

  9. “The piece implies that DJUSD is a wealthy district. It may be more affluent than many but as I watched it, I was thinking that I sure didn’t feel as wealthy as the story implied.”

    That’s right, it’s *way* more affluent than most. People in many other communities don’t have *anything* extra, much less the option of considering giving a dollar a day to their schools. The minority of people in Davis who also don’t have this option had their school taken away. I am glad those in Davis who can give did, to help these schools, but keep in your mind that we all ultimately suffer when schools anywhere don’t get what they need. It might be easy to forget that in a largely privileged community like Davis, but we should use this privilege whenever we can to help others.

  10. “The piece implies that DJUSD is a wealthy district. It may be more affluent than many but as I watched it, I was thinking that I sure didn’t feel as wealthy as the story implied.”

    That’s right, it’s *way* more affluent than most. People in many other communities don’t have *anything* extra, much less the option of considering giving a dollar a day to their schools. The minority of people in Davis who also don’t have this option had their school taken away. I am glad those in Davis who can give did, to help these schools, but keep in your mind that we all ultimately suffer when schools anywhere don’t get what they need. It might be easy to forget that in a largely privileged community like Davis, but we should use this privilege whenever we can to help others.

  11. “The piece implies that DJUSD is a wealthy district. It may be more affluent than many but as I watched it, I was thinking that I sure didn’t feel as wealthy as the story implied.”

    That’s right, it’s *way* more affluent than most. People in many other communities don’t have *anything* extra, much less the option of considering giving a dollar a day to their schools. The minority of people in Davis who also don’t have this option had their school taken away. I am glad those in Davis who can give did, to help these schools, but keep in your mind that we all ultimately suffer when schools anywhere don’t get what they need. It might be easy to forget that in a largely privileged community like Davis, but we should use this privilege whenever we can to help others.

  12. “The piece implies that DJUSD is a wealthy district. It may be more affluent than many but as I watched it, I was thinking that I sure didn’t feel as wealthy as the story implied.”

    That’s right, it’s *way* more affluent than most. People in many other communities don’t have *anything* extra, much less the option of considering giving a dollar a day to their schools. The minority of people in Davis who also don’t have this option had their school taken away. I am glad those in Davis who can give did, to help these schools, but keep in your mind that we all ultimately suffer when schools anywhere don’t get what they need. It might be easy to forget that in a largely privileged community like Davis, but we should use this privilege whenever we can to help others.

  13. Sorry, but I don’t see the prison guard analogy. Prisoners require more funding because they have to be highly monitored 24/7. Comparing funding for students with funding for prisoners is like comparing apples and oranges. Public safety should always be a top priority. Look what happened during Hurricane Katrina when prisoners were allowed to roam free. Think about it. You really, really don’t want to go there.

    School districts always claim they need more money. Every agency will always say they need more money. Our school district is going to come at us with another request for a repeat parcel tax on top of the one we already paid for (and was not used for what was promised). Throwing more money at the problem is not the answer. We need to get at the root cause of the alleged “underfunding” of our schools.

    First of all, Woodland managed to weather the storm without any teacher layoffs, nor school closures. Why is that? We need to find out. Secondly, notice some of the cuts that were made in other school districts. It is quite illustrative of the problem.

    * Natomis opted to delay opening a middle school. Was the middle school really needed in the face of alleged “declining enrollment”? Or was the new middle school something promised by developers – developers that had no idea if funding would be available for operating expenses once the school was built? Developers cannot be allowed to promise schools for which there is inadequate funding to operate.

    * School lunches will be improved in another school district, in the hopes of attracting buyers. So in other words, up until now, school lunches have not been particularly edible? Good nutrition is a basic necessity of life, and can determine how well a student performs in school. What a novel idea – provide decent lunches! Nothing like stating the obvious! For crying out loud, why was this issue not addressed long ago?

    * Another school district is doing away with “teaching coaches”. What in heaven’s name were the teachers doing in college when obtaining their teaching credentials? There shouldn’t be a need to “teach teachers” – they were supposed to have already gotten their education BEFORE they were hired. If this is not the case, then we need to demand more of our teaching colleges – who clearly are not getting the job done.

    * No, Davis is not unique. It suffers from the same sort of nonsense as other school districts. Developers promise schools we cannot afford/ enrollment numbers do not support; schools are not using common sense in their expenditures; corruption has been allowed to permeate our school districts without any checks and balances.

    * Teachers unions have been singularly ineffective in bargaining for a fair wage and benefits. If teachers are having to shell out a $1000 per month for health insurance in Davis, so that most opt out of the plan to obtain private health insurance, there is something seriously wrong with union leaders who are doing the bargaining.

    Bottom line – we need more parental and teacher input into the process. I’ll say it again – let’s begin an oversight commission attached to our School Board. It can critically look at the budget, and the District’s particular situation, and make some reasonable recommendations. Based on recent observations, the current School Board is virtually incapable of making reasoned decisions. About all they seem capable of is wringing their hands in consternation, and suggest things like increasing taxes and closing schools – neither of which is a good solution. If parents can bail the School District out of its fiscal problems, then they are trustworthy enough to make recommendations to the School Board on how best to budget properly.

    Just as an addendum, the selection of this commission must be seen to be fair and above board, not stocked with friends of the School Board and District. It needs to have representatives from parents, teachers, the administration, and City Council. All parties need to be at the table in a group effort. Everyone might be surprised at how effective and creative this Education Commission can be.

  14. Sorry, but I don’t see the prison guard analogy. Prisoners require more funding because they have to be highly monitored 24/7. Comparing funding for students with funding for prisoners is like comparing apples and oranges. Public safety should always be a top priority. Look what happened during Hurricane Katrina when prisoners were allowed to roam free. Think about it. You really, really don’t want to go there.

    School districts always claim they need more money. Every agency will always say they need more money. Our school district is going to come at us with another request for a repeat parcel tax on top of the one we already paid for (and was not used for what was promised). Throwing more money at the problem is not the answer. We need to get at the root cause of the alleged “underfunding” of our schools.

    First of all, Woodland managed to weather the storm without any teacher layoffs, nor school closures. Why is that? We need to find out. Secondly, notice some of the cuts that were made in other school districts. It is quite illustrative of the problem.

    * Natomis opted to delay opening a middle school. Was the middle school really needed in the face of alleged “declining enrollment”? Or was the new middle school something promised by developers – developers that had no idea if funding would be available for operating expenses once the school was built? Developers cannot be allowed to promise schools for which there is inadequate funding to operate.

    * School lunches will be improved in another school district, in the hopes of attracting buyers. So in other words, up until now, school lunches have not been particularly edible? Good nutrition is a basic necessity of life, and can determine how well a student performs in school. What a novel idea – provide decent lunches! Nothing like stating the obvious! For crying out loud, why was this issue not addressed long ago?

    * Another school district is doing away with “teaching coaches”. What in heaven’s name were the teachers doing in college when obtaining their teaching credentials? There shouldn’t be a need to “teach teachers” – they were supposed to have already gotten their education BEFORE they were hired. If this is not the case, then we need to demand more of our teaching colleges – who clearly are not getting the job done.

    * No, Davis is not unique. It suffers from the same sort of nonsense as other school districts. Developers promise schools we cannot afford/ enrollment numbers do not support; schools are not using common sense in their expenditures; corruption has been allowed to permeate our school districts without any checks and balances.

    * Teachers unions have been singularly ineffective in bargaining for a fair wage and benefits. If teachers are having to shell out a $1000 per month for health insurance in Davis, so that most opt out of the plan to obtain private health insurance, there is something seriously wrong with union leaders who are doing the bargaining.

    Bottom line – we need more parental and teacher input into the process. I’ll say it again – let’s begin an oversight commission attached to our School Board. It can critically look at the budget, and the District’s particular situation, and make some reasonable recommendations. Based on recent observations, the current School Board is virtually incapable of making reasoned decisions. About all they seem capable of is wringing their hands in consternation, and suggest things like increasing taxes and closing schools – neither of which is a good solution. If parents can bail the School District out of its fiscal problems, then they are trustworthy enough to make recommendations to the School Board on how best to budget properly.

    Just as an addendum, the selection of this commission must be seen to be fair and above board, not stocked with friends of the School Board and District. It needs to have representatives from parents, teachers, the administration, and City Council. All parties need to be at the table in a group effort. Everyone might be surprised at how effective and creative this Education Commission can be.

  15. Sorry, but I don’t see the prison guard analogy. Prisoners require more funding because they have to be highly monitored 24/7. Comparing funding for students with funding for prisoners is like comparing apples and oranges. Public safety should always be a top priority. Look what happened during Hurricane Katrina when prisoners were allowed to roam free. Think about it. You really, really don’t want to go there.

    School districts always claim they need more money. Every agency will always say they need more money. Our school district is going to come at us with another request for a repeat parcel tax on top of the one we already paid for (and was not used for what was promised). Throwing more money at the problem is not the answer. We need to get at the root cause of the alleged “underfunding” of our schools.

    First of all, Woodland managed to weather the storm without any teacher layoffs, nor school closures. Why is that? We need to find out. Secondly, notice some of the cuts that were made in other school districts. It is quite illustrative of the problem.

    * Natomis opted to delay opening a middle school. Was the middle school really needed in the face of alleged “declining enrollment”? Or was the new middle school something promised by developers – developers that had no idea if funding would be available for operating expenses once the school was built? Developers cannot be allowed to promise schools for which there is inadequate funding to operate.

    * School lunches will be improved in another school district, in the hopes of attracting buyers. So in other words, up until now, school lunches have not been particularly edible? Good nutrition is a basic necessity of life, and can determine how well a student performs in school. What a novel idea – provide decent lunches! Nothing like stating the obvious! For crying out loud, why was this issue not addressed long ago?

    * Another school district is doing away with “teaching coaches”. What in heaven’s name were the teachers doing in college when obtaining their teaching credentials? There shouldn’t be a need to “teach teachers” – they were supposed to have already gotten their education BEFORE they were hired. If this is not the case, then we need to demand more of our teaching colleges – who clearly are not getting the job done.

    * No, Davis is not unique. It suffers from the same sort of nonsense as other school districts. Developers promise schools we cannot afford/ enrollment numbers do not support; schools are not using common sense in their expenditures; corruption has been allowed to permeate our school districts without any checks and balances.

    * Teachers unions have been singularly ineffective in bargaining for a fair wage and benefits. If teachers are having to shell out a $1000 per month for health insurance in Davis, so that most opt out of the plan to obtain private health insurance, there is something seriously wrong with union leaders who are doing the bargaining.

    Bottom line – we need more parental and teacher input into the process. I’ll say it again – let’s begin an oversight commission attached to our School Board. It can critically look at the budget, and the District’s particular situation, and make some reasonable recommendations. Based on recent observations, the current School Board is virtually incapable of making reasoned decisions. About all they seem capable of is wringing their hands in consternation, and suggest things like increasing taxes and closing schools – neither of which is a good solution. If parents can bail the School District out of its fiscal problems, then they are trustworthy enough to make recommendations to the School Board on how best to budget properly.

    Just as an addendum, the selection of this commission must be seen to be fair and above board, not stocked with friends of the School Board and District. It needs to have representatives from parents, teachers, the administration, and City Council. All parties need to be at the table in a group effort. Everyone might be surprised at how effective and creative this Education Commission can be.