False claims levied against Davis district

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 3:40 PM

Chris Williams

During election season, candidates do their best to gain the attention and confidence of voters. Statistics will be shared, claims will be communicated and opinions will undoubtedly be offered.

And sometimes, as Lenin is quoted as saying, "A lie told often enough becomes the truth."

Such a statement is especially true if no one responds to a false claim that is circulated.

Well, such a time has come. Numerous false claims have been made with regard to the Davis School District. It’s time to respond.

Claim: The current Board of Education of the Davis School District has raised taxes five times during the last eight years.

Fact: A check of the minutes of the last eight years of Davis school board meetings shows the board voted to raise taxes three times, not five. Taxes were raised in 2007 to capture state matching funds in board and reading levies; in 2010 to recover from a legislative cut of $8 million in capital funding to construct buildings; and in 2011 to decrease class sizes in grades K-3 — that were up, in some cases, to more than 34 students.

The cost of restoring two instructional days previously taken off the school year calendar was also included in that 2011 increase. No tax increase went to pay administrative salaries.

As a matter of fact, the school board has been very hesitant to increase taxes, and has often found other ways to balance budgets. The school district has slashed budgets and shouldered additional costs amounting to $75 million during the last four years.

That was done while the district’s portion of retirement, social security and health insurance costs increased. It also has, among other things, eliminated 187 full-time and 100 part-time positions. In the meantime, the district’s student population has increased by 3,338 students since 2008. However, state funding did not keep up with that growth.

Claim: School district employees have received raises when their salaries are double their counterparts in the private sector. More than 185 employees have salaries above $100,000.

Fact: First, such a claim about salaries is very difficult to quantify. Which position in the public sector should we compare to which position in the private sector?

If one visits Utahsright.com, the figures are misleading. It shows 194 district employees making more than $100,000, but those numbers include the cost of benefits, which account for about one-third of the annual compensation of an employee.

The website also doesn’t shed any light on advanced degrees, level of responsibility or years of experience of any employee. Many in that group have more than 20 years of experience.

Secondly, school district employees have not received a cost of living increase in five years. During that time, employees have also had the length of their contracts cut, have paid more for insurance and have had less take-home pay.

Claim: The Board of Education voted to release personal confidential information of all families to public and private industries contrary to Utah law.

Fact: The school board doesn’t break the law and hasn’t released confidential information of all families. As a matter of fact, its privacy standard is more stringent than state law. According to its own Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act policy, the board must approve of those requests before any personal identifiable information is released.

We, as members the Davis School District, appreciate the continued support of residents throughout Davis County. We know our students succeed not only because of the own hard work, but also because of the ongoing and combined efforts of parents and teachers.

Chris Williams is the community relations director for the Davis School District.

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