After being battered for years by deep cuts in state funding, the Davis school district’s financial picture is finally starting to look up. Davis expects to receive a $4.3 million boost from the state next year.
And at Thursday’s school board meeting, several teachers urged the trustees to make a salary increase for teachers a priority, saying they had accepted furlough days and salary cuts when times were bad, all the while taking on more work due to class size increases.
At the same time, Superintendent Winfred Roberson and Associate Superintendent Bruce Colby reminded the trustees that the school district faces a long list of needs, ranging from backlogged facilities needs to updating outdated technology, in addition to considering employee compensation.
Pat King, a longtime math teacher at Holmes Junior High, reminded the trustees that “teachers are being asked to implement the Common Core academic standards,” the biggest update in California’s math standards since the 1990s, which will entail new lesson plans and coordination between teachers at different grade levels.
“These teachers need to feel respected, they need to be compensated,” King said. “They can’t continue to do more for less. We’ve had less take-home pay (each year) for many years.”
Jerry de Camp, a teacher at Davis High and Da Vinci Charter Academy, urged the trustees to work on “lowering class size and increasing salary and benefits to attract the best young teachers. … We have supported you in the past, we ask that you support us now.”
He also urged the school board to consider a retirement incentive similar to the one offered by the school district give years ago.
Blair Howard, a teacher at King High and president of the Davis Teachers Association, held his 18-month-old son in his arms as he reminded the board that “many young but experienced teachers like myself survived rounds of layoff notices” during the budget crisis and “now are faced with another decision” — whether they should take a teaching job in another district that offers a higher salary and better benefits, in a community where home prices are lower.
“Davis may lose some of its finest young teachers,” Howard warned, adding “Teachers want their work to be recognized with competitive compensation.”
Colby said that while it is a relief talk about a budget increase for the first time in years, $4.3 million “is not nearly enough” to cover the accumulated needs that have built up across the district.
“We have lost over $15 million in purchasing power over the last five years, and while a $4.3 million bump is nice, we are still in a hole,” he said.
And Roberson ticked off a list of budget needs to be prioritized, including class size reduction, employee compensation, professional learning opportunities (including sessions on the new Common Core standards), new instructional materials (reflecting the Common Core standards), instructional technology and rising utility costs. Roberson said addressing all of these needs would involve budget planning over a period of years, not months.
The comments made at Thursday’s school board meeting were the public manifestation of conversations that are also going on in contract discussions between the district and the Davis Teachers Association. As Roberson observed, “We are in the process of engaging our community and our employees … as we address all of these things.”
— Reach Jeff Hudson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8055.