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Friday, October 10, 2008

What are good teachers worth?

Earlier this week, we broke down the district budget numbers and found that the major problem facing the school district right now is the lack of full state funding for the COLA. In short, the the state is funding .7% of the COLA when the districts should be getting somewhere around 5.5%. That works out to $40 per student when the schools should be getting $280.

The numbers work out to roughly $2.4 million district-wide and the district is placing a parcel tax on the ballot in less that four weeks.

Last Thursday members of the Davis Teachers Association showed up at the Davis school board meeting to demonstrate how many teachers would lose their jobs should Measure W fail.

Former DTA President Jerry de Camp said:
"Six months ago, we were in the worst situation I'd ever seen in 27 years with the district. We are facing the same potential next spring if Measure W does not pass.

It's essential that we understand that Measure W is not 'something extra.' Measure W continues programs that we've had a long time. It's not extra.

All the things that Measure W does are things we have come to take for granted. We've had the support of the taxpayers over and over. We must have it again now. What we have in this community is so precious and so good — and it's threatened if Measure W does not pass, because of problems with state funding."
Last week a column in the Davis Enterprise by Rich Rifkin put the blame for the current budget crisis on employee raises that were handed out a few years ago.

While the 6.5% teachers raise given out just two years ago, did in fact put a strain on district finances and the school board was misled by the district in terms of their ability to pay for that raise in the short run, given the state COLA at that time, it would have been difficult if not impossible for the district to give a considerably lower raise.

Moreover, when we look at the spending by the district since 2002-03, it is unclear that spending is the ultimate problem.

Over that period of seven school years, district spending increased around $14 million from $59.1 million to $73 million. That's roughly the rate of inflation. Teacher salaries account for $10 million of that money. In 2002-03 teacher salaries accounted for 64% of the total budget, in 2008-09 it accounts for 64.5% of the total budget. In other words, teacher salaries have basically increased in proportion to the rest of the budget.

82% of the budget for 2008-09 goes directly to the classroom.

Let us put it this way, is that not where we want the money to go? Do we not want money to go directly into the classroom?

The primary budget increases over this time come from the state. Now Measure Q did upwardly adjust the parcel tax but only commensurate with the rate of inflation. In real dollars, Measure Q was roughly the same as Measure N's funding.

Does Davis overpay its teachers?

I do not think so given (a) the relative experience of Davis teachers and (b) the cost of living in Davis compared with the state.

Davis' average teacher makes $63,378 in total compensation. The statewide average is virtually the same at $63,323. By comparison, Woodland teachers make an average of $57,688. However, not only is the cost of living in Davis higher than in Woodland, but the average Davis teacher has 3 more years of teaching experience than their Woodland counterpart. Moreover Davis has over a 6% higher proportion of credentialed teachers than Woodland.

Recall that the collective bargaining agreement grants for step and column increases to salary and those two factors--credentialed teachers and teaching experience likely account for that difference.

In other words, Davis' teacher salaries do not appear to be disproportionate either to the statewide average or even Woodland. You also have the bottom line in terms of the overall performance in Davis.

The other factor here is that DJUSD's belath benefits for teachers was in the lower tier for all districts until their recent increase. Teachers had to pay supplementals to health coverage, particularly to extend their health care benefits to their children. We complain in this society about companies and their responsibility for taking care of their a minimum level of health insurance to make sure that their employees were covered. The district is moving in that direction.

The bottom line, as with elsewhere, is that if you want quality teachers, you have to pay and give increases that are commensurate with surrounding districts.

To me you just cannot put a premium on good teachers. The cost of losing quality teachers and programs makes Measure W a pressing matter. Increasingly, it looks like Measure W will pass. Given where the economy is headed, this will help insure that Davis Schools will be able to function at a high level in the foreseeable future regardless of where the economy goes.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting