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Dan's Blog

Making 403(b) Lemonade 🍋➡️🍸

September 29, 2020

One week ago in a blog post called 403(b) Lemon Challenge we asked the 403bwise community to identify the California school districts that lack access to at least one of the following low-cost companies. 

  • Aspire (not yet available in California)
  • CalSTRS Pension 2
  • Fidelity Investments (not American Fidelity)
  • TIAA
  • T. Rowe Price
  • Vanguard

Typically, every school district has at least CalSTRS Pension 2 available. This a low-cost 403(b) plan created by the state teachers pension agency, CalSTRS. Using the state-run 403(b) data base for K-12 schools and community colleges 403bcompare, we have checked a lot of districts and have yet to find one lacking at least CalSTRS Pension 2. But there are more than 1,000 school districts in the state. We offered free copies of Teach and Retire Rich to any advocate who could find the 403(b) lemons. Right off the bat six were identified. Then on Saturday I got an email from Matt from Arizona...

"My wife is a teacher and I worked at a school district for 12 years. I greatly appreciate all that you have done and are doing to improve 403b and 457s. You and Scott have helped us a lot.

I wrote a script to go through 403bcompare's website to find employers that did not have the vendors that you were looking for. The list below should be complete."

Lemons to Lemonade

Boom. Lemons to lemonade. Or since we are adults, lemons to lemon drop martinis! Below are the 104 school districts and three community colleges lacking at least one quality 403(b) vendor choice. We have addded number of employees in parenthesis based on information in the National Center for Education Statistics database. Thanks to my daugher, Lily, for compiling that information.

Note: If you work in any of these districts it is pretty straightforward to add CalSTRS Pension 2 by calling (888) 394-2060.

Stay wise. Stay well.


Academia Avance Charter (31 employees)

Alexander Valley Union Elementary (19)

Alma Fuerte Public School (13)

Alta-Dutch Flat Union Elementary (11)

American Indian Model Schools (no employee data)


Bay Area Technology School (20 employees)

Bella Mente Montessori Academy (74)

Belleview Elementary School District (no employee data)

Belridge School District (4)

Big Creek Elementary (14)

Black Butte School District (4)

Bonny Doon Union Elementary (15)

Browns Elementary (18)


Calipatria Unified (128 employees)

Cascade Union Elementary (139)

Cayucos Elementary School District (29)

Champs-Charter Hs Of Arts-Multimedia & Performing (72)

Chicago Park School District (19)

Chualar Union School District (39)

Citizens of the World (66)

City Heights Preparatory Charter (15)

Clay Joint Elementary (19)

College of the Desert (Full time: 147; Part time 417)

Collegiate Charter High School of LA (18)

Columbia Elementary School District (94)

Core Charter School (34)

Cottonwood School District (no employee data)

Creative Arts Charter School (32)


Death Valley Unified (15 employees)

Digiorgio School District (18)


East Nicolaus Joint Union High (27 employees)

Ednovate, Inc. DBA USC Hybrid High School (40)

El Rio Community School (63)

Endeavor College Preparatory Charter (86)

Equitas Academy #2 (59)

Extera Public School #2 (71)


Franklin Elementary (38 employees)


Geyserville Unified School District (36 employees)

Global Education Academy (17)


Heber School District (296 employees)


iLead Online Charter School (14 employees)

Imperial Valley Regional Occupational Program (no employee data)

Ingenium Charter (50)

Isana Academy (36)

IvyTech Charter School (6)


Junction Elementary School District (no employee data)


Lagunita School District (7 employees)

Lassen Community College (80)

Laton Unified School District (90)

Le Grand Union High School District (65)

Libertas College Prep (30)

Lone Pine Unified School District (38)

Luther Burbank (no employee data)


Manzanita Public Charter School (38 employees)

Maple Elementary School District (no employee data)

Marcum-Illinois Union (25)

Mariposa County Unified School District (212) 

McKittrick Elementary School District (13)

Meadows Union School District (78)

Mission Preparatory (31)

Mission Union School District  (11)

Monroe Elementary (22)

Mountain Valley Special Education, JPA (no employee data)

Multicultural Learning Center (54)


New Designs Charter School (30 employees)

New Millennium Charter (80)

New Village Charter (14)


Ocean Charter (52 employees)

Odyssey Charter School (252)

Ofarrell Community School (161)

Orange Center (35)

Orchard School District (67)

Oxford Preparatory Academy (53)


Pacific Union School District (69 employees)

Pleasant Valley Joint Union Elementary (11)

Pond Union Elementary (24)

Public Policy Charter School (13)


Raisin City Elementary (31 employees)

Redding Stem Academy (12)

Ridgecrest Charter School (52)

Rio Bravo-Greeley Union School District (101)

River Islands Technology Academy (58)

Riverdale Joint Unified (158)

Rocklin Academy (100)

Round Valley Joint Unified (14)


San Antonio Union Elementary (21 employees)

San Ardo Union Elementary (17)

San Diego Global Vision Academy (38)

Santa Clarita Valley International Charter School (95)

Santa Ynez Valley Charter School (17)

Sierra Charter (42)

Sierra County Office of Education (5)

Sierra Unified (165)

Sierra-Plumas Joint Unified (62)

Sonoma Charter (21)

South Fork Union (30)

Stem Preparatory Schools (29)

Sunrise Middle School (28)

Synergy Charter Academy (29)


Taft City School District  (214 employees)

Twin Rivers Charter School (16)


Valiente College Prep Charter  employees (15)


Washington Colony Elementary  (43 employees)

Watts Learning Center (32)

West Park School District (69)

Westside Elementary (no employee data)

Winship-Robbins (18)

Related Podcast:

403(b) Lemon Challenge In California, it's the worst of 403(b) times (too many vendor choices), and it's the best of 403(b) times (generally at least one good vendor). Unfortunately, not all districts in the state have at least one good vendor. We challenged the community to find the lemons. Challenge met! Listen Now »