Sunday, August 25, 2013

Carlyle Proposes Paying School Board Members

The Times has an article about the idea of paying School Board members of the largest districts (likely to be Seattle, Spokane and Tacoma) a real salary.   This idea is being spearheaded by Rep. Reuven Carlyle and I agree with him.  

"State Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, is trying to improve the job by proposing members be paid what state legislators are, about $42,000 annually. Right now, they are eligible for $4,800 a year in reimbursements and per diems."

You might recall my thread about the school board directors convention that happened in Seattle this summer.  The idea of paying Board members came up at a press event there and was poohed-poohed by the panel at the event.  That thought is echoed here:

If Carlyle’s bill passes, it could make Washington’s school boards the highest paid in the nation, said Tom Alsbury, a professor in educational leadership at Seattle Pacific University.

Alsbury, who studies school boards as director of a national research organization, opposes paying board members. He said the job is designed to be a thankless, volunteer position. While other elected jobs are held disproportionately by wealthy people or lawyers, or dominated by career politicians, school boards have remained examples of pure, messy democracy.

“People are serving because they believe they are helping the community and the school, not for any other reason,” he said. 

I have to say that if the professor thinks that people run for school boards just out of the goodness of their hearts (and no other agendas), I've got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell him.

Here's my comment at the Times (and most comments are almost violently against this idea):

On the whole, I agree with Rep Carlyle. I think the salary stated is too high (I'd make it about $25k).

I find it interesting that nearly everyone - including the Times - complains about the School Board and yet, it's okay it's made up of only volunteers who have the time AND can afford to work for free.

Kind of limits who might run, no? Are people with the time and the money the BEST people to run or the ONLY people who can run?

Think about it - in Seattle, between the capital and operations budget, that's over $1B. Don't you want more (and possibly better) choices for who oversees that kind of public spending instead of nice volunteers? 


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

If you pay the Mariners more, will they play better? I think not. Think Chone Figgins.

-Another Reader

Melissa Westbrook said...

My thought is not necessarily better performance but a larger (and possibly better) group of candidates to choose from.

Charlie Mas said...

The first time I ran for the school board I spoke, briefly, on the phone with Joni Balter (during a KUOW call in show) and when she heard that I had a job she said that I could never serve on the Board with a full time job. It is her belief that only members of the leisure class can serve on the school board.

Anonymous said...

This is absurd the idea that we need local districts and crazy rich people or whatever running schools. It should be a State funded board with a single focus across the state for addressing the needs of the students from K-12 to beyond. Centralized, elected and remanded for working with local elected officials on city or county councils.. Local boards need to die.

SPS Board hater

Charlie Mas said...

My first impulse is to disagree with SPS Board hater and insist that there is some value that we get from local school boards, but I have to admit that I'm having a hard time thinking of what those benefits might be.

I have long said that I would welcome an appointed board if we could have an elected superintendent. The problem with the structure of our school districts is that the superintendents have the authority and the Boards have the accountability. They should be together in the same person.

A superintendent, elected to a four-year-term would have to be responsive to the community and would give the District at least four years of consistent leadership. If the superintendent wins re-election then we would have eight years of consistent leadership - or more! And wouldn't that be great.

Anonymous said...

If paying the school board matters, then how much you pay them also matters. If the idea in paying directors is that you wish to attract somebody with a salary as opposed to simply electing the "idle rich", then $25K won't cut it. $25K will continue to attract the "idle rich" mostly. Oh yeah, and it just might attract those who wish a bump up from their McDonald's gig. $42K is similarly weak. If you want professionals, dedicated to the work, and qualified, and you believe that a professional salary will do that, then it will need to be a professional salary. Around $100K. And, you might want to enact some other qualifications/certifications as well.

The real point is, the school board doesn't have much real work to do. They are simply a small voice from the public. The professional, the one who does all the real work, is the superintendent. And, all the board members have their own axes to grind. Their axes are almost never aligned to the actual work of the district. They are personal.

Another Reader

hschinske said...

Plenty of professionals (*cough*teachers*cough*) get way less than 100K a year. And is being a board member considered a full-time job? (I don't question that it's hard work and inconvenient hours, but I never got the impression that it was anything like 2,000 hours a year. I could be quite wrong about that.)

Helen Schinske

Melissa Westbrook said...

I don't consider school board a full-time job but it is way more than what most people think it is (if you put the time in that is likely needed.)

I might go along with Charlie's idea (and change may be coming sooner than we think -more on that in a new thread); it might provide stability and elected oversight.

No real work for the School Board? Well, that depends on whether they are to operate as a rubber-stamp or provide real oversight.

Anonymous said...

If the idea is to get someone besides a bunch of dilettantes with personal agendas, eg somebody who might actually be qualified to sit on the board, we could use corporate boards as a model to see what the pay for board work actually is. Here is what top board members are making in the corporate world. Notably Apple's board members earned $127,000 per MEETING! You could pro-rate this down to the district level, the same way superintendent salaries are. Large districts pay supers about like $50M corporations, so should boards, presumably. This article also notes a pay for performance movement in board salaries. Perhaps that should apply here as well - since it seems to be the measure of all things education. Let's pay the board according to their how well students do on tests. Maybe even, how well students do from each particular constituency.

My main point is, what's the actual point of paying the board? That should be examined. And once that is determined, you've got to set the compensation commensurately. I don't think any of that has happened.

-Another reader

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, as I said, if you are truly overseeing over $1B of taxpayer money AND influencing the outcomes for public school students in Seattle, well, you might want people with varied expertise.

Anonymous said...

Why is the teacher always the one holding the short handled hoe?

Why would we pay a board member more than a teacher with a master's degree? Why aren't we paying the teacher with a master's as much as we pay a Seattle City Council member? The superintendent makes more than the governor. Why does this dissonance continue?

Mr. White

Charlie Mas said...

I'm going to answer the question above with another question: "Why would anyone get paid more than anyone else?"

Maureen said...

Blogger Charlie Mas said...
I'm going to answer the question above with another question: "Why would anyone get paid more than anyone else?"

Oh! Oh! Call on me!
Supply and Demand!

(Well, unless we are also considering issues of imperfect markets and unequal information and ...)

Brita said...

Hello all,
To stay in touch with constituents, adequately oversee the budget, evaluate the superintendent, and develop policies to create an effective educational system that works for thousands of students with diverse backgrounds and aspirations requires a lot of time. I spent 60 hours a week (much on weeknights and weekends) during my 4 years on the board. This is coming from a background as a former professional educator (college instructor and teacher educator/administrator). If a board member needs to hold down a dayjob, she will not have time to revamp old policies, keep up with district developments, read emails from constituents (often hundreds a week), or glean enough information to vote on the issues which by law must come before the board. If we value a diverse board, we need to ensure that people of modest means can apply. I have met many board members throughout the state and in many districts, it is a part-time gig. Not in cities like Seattle. When the board is reluctant to add to the budget by giving itself research staff (similar to the leg. aides that state legs. and city councilmembers rely on), we add to this burden. School board is a full-time, 12-month job, unless it is a rubberstamp.

Anonymous said...

Amen, Brita! Amen.


Melissa Westbrook said...

One thing that does puzzle me is that the School Board has Erin Bennett doing policy work for the Board and I'd like to thing that might include some research. That's a question to ask.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Also, Brita for the win.

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