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School board contemplates budget priorities

By From page A1 | February 05, 2014

At almost every meeting nowadays, the Davis school board has a budget discussion on the agenda. And Thursday’s meeting will be no exception.

“New (state) funds next year are a welcome opportunity to make essential investments,” the agenda summary notes, “but (the sum total of new funds) is not nearly enough for all the challenges and opportunities our district will face. Even with a projected increase of $4.3 milion next year and expectations of future increases, demands for these new funds are significantly higher.”

Among the considerations: teachers and other school district employees haven’t seen a cost-of-living raise since the recession began in 2008. Teachers have spoken at several recent school board meetings, urging trustees to increase their pay.

Parents and teachers are interested in reducing class sizes after their ballooned following recession-driven budget cuts. The Davis school district also has out-of-date computers and technology infrastructure as well as several backlogged facilities projects, to name but a few priorities.

The district also has been carrying a year-on-year structural deficit — spending more than it is taking in.

“We must and will invest this (state funding) increase and all funds consistent with the traditions that have driven our (district’s) success: academic excellence and fiscal solvency,” the agenda summary states. “We need to close our structural deficit spending while investing in our mission to develop the best possible learning environment for all students. These investments include spending on staff, educational services and support, facilities and instructional materials.”

But which of those needs will come first, and which needs will wait for next year or thereafter, as state funding is gradually restored? That’s the big issue the board will be grappling with as it hears the budget report Thursday. Discussions on this topic likely will continue for many weeks to come.

Elsewhere on Thursday’s agenda, the school board will:

* Hear “sunshine proposals” identifying issues that will be discussed in contract negotiations with the Davis Teachers Association and the California School Employees Association, the district’s two bargaining units. It is no surprise that salary and benefits are high up on the list for both unions.

* Hear an update on Common Core state standards instructional materials. During the recession and the related state budget crisis, the state allowed districts to postpone the purchase of  new instructional materials, and many did so. However, with California now implementing the new academic standards, districts are looking at purchasing new materials that reflect the standards teachers are working with in the classroom.

Thursday’s report will examine Davis’ needs and the projected timeline for adoption of new instructional materials. The school board also will talk about professional learning opportunities (i.e., training for teachers and other staff) relating to the Common Core standards.

Thursday’s meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the Community Chambers at Davis City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd. The meeting will be carried live on Davis cable Channel 17 and as streaming video at www.djusd.tv.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or 530-757-8055.

Jeff Hudson

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