* Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of five stories profiling candidates in the Davis Board of Education race.
Susan Lovenburg was the top vote-getter when she was elected to the Davis school board in November 2007. As she joined the board the following month, California’s state budget crisis went from bad to worse, as state government began cutting funding and deferring payments to local school districts (including Davis), a practice that has continued year after year.
The annual struggle to put together a balanced school district budget — when the state keeps sending red ink and IOUs — has become the defining feature of Lovenburg’s five years of service.
“Since I came on the board in 2007, we have lost more than $1,000 per pupil per year in (state) funding, for every child in the district,” Lovenburg said. “And if Proposition 30 (Gov. Jerry Brown’s statewide ballot initiative to fund education and public safety) and Measure E (the Davis school district’s current school parcel tax proposal) fail — and we are working hard to make sure that they do not — we will lose another $440 per child per year, right away.
“So I know what we are facing,” Lovenburg said. “And I know how to get through these times without decimating the public schools. There is no silver bullet. It takes a multifaceted approach.
“First, we need to know what we can do without, and what we can’t do without,” she continued. “Then, we need help. We have reached agreements with employees on (salary) concessions before, and I know we can again. The community has supported the schools through fundraising, foundations and the PTAs. And our community’s support for school parcel taxes is the envy of the state.
“Davis supports education. We can do this together.”
Lovenburg said she is seeking re-election because public education is in crisis, “and there is no more important place to be.”
“I’m committed to making sure that every child in Davis has the opportunity to reach their full potential,” she pledged. “I’m here to make sure the community has the information people need to trust that their tax dollars are well spent.”
To that end, Lovenburg has worked with community volunteers on District Dollars (www.districtdollars.org), a web-based program that makes clear how the district receives money and how it is spent. Users can tell school leaders what educational components they value, and can see that “this financial crisis can’t just be fixed in Davis,” she said. “There are structural governance reforms needed at the state level, too.”
Lovenburg’s mission for adequate funding for public education has led her to California Forward, where she is employed as the director of the Partnership for Economic Prosperity. The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization works to bring “common sense” back to state budgeting, and to focus government on improving results, she said.
If elected to a second term, “I plan to continue as I began, and try to listen to all perspectives, ask the hard questions, seek to understand, then act with integrity,” Lovenburg said. “And always stay focused on the students.
“The economic times that we are in have driven me to become much better educated about the district’s budget and California school finance,” she added. “What I understand more now (after serving as a trustee for five years) is that one individual board member is limited in what they can do. The district is governed by a board, not led by an individual. So all actions and policies of the board have to be crafted by all members of the board.
“This is a very different understanding than you have when you’re running as a first-time candidate, and you’re talking about your vision, and what you will do. When you get on the board, you realize that what you can achieve is very dependent upon the relationships you build with your board colleagues. You have to build a strong governance team to be effective.”
Lovenburg highlighted her work as a member of the Yolo County School Boards Association and California School Boards Association, networking with other trustees at the regional and statewide levels.
She came to Davis in 1997, and has been involved with schools ever since. She volunteered as newsletter editor, website planner, listserv organizer and helper at parent education forms.
A librarian by training, Lovenburg has three daughters — a recent college graduate, a junior at Davis High and a ninth-grader at Emerson Junior High.
What does she hope to address in a second term?
“The budget just dominates,” Lovenburg replied. “There are many other things I’d like to achieve. But we have to stabilize financially first. And having been here, having been through this (for five years), prepares me for what’s coming.”
— Reach Jeff Hudson at email@example.com or 530-747-8055.