News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Monday, August 27, 2007

Oh, to be king. Or CEO.

In the matter of open government, I am somewhat ambiguous about publishing the names of public employees with their salaries. In the town where I previously lived, it was the law that the school board had to publish its annual financial statement in the newspaper, which included the names of all administrators and teachers and the salaries they earned for that year. The salary list included what some received for coaching, and it made clear that coaching was considered a bigger service to the community than education.

The list was a prime reason for putting teachers on a salary schedule. When they compared their own salaries with other teachers', any disparity was sure to be noted. If teachers thought there were unfair pay differentials, the school board would have to spend a lot of time explaining them and trying to resolve complaints lodged against it. It was much easier to put teachers on a pay schedule so that they knew what they could expect.

The down side of publishing salaries is that doing so creates a class division. In the case of teachers, their pay puts them in an economic class that is quite below the social class they are held to. In some communities, this puts teachers in the role of bonded servants, not education professionals. Once when an organization I worked with was going to hold a reception for the editor of a major series of books, a board member, who was a teacher and had a beautiful house overlooking a river valley, offered the use of his home. Another board member asked what dignitary wanted to be hosted in the home of a school teacher.

On my list of the problems with public education, the attitude that teachers are low-level child tenders who don't know their lowly place in society is right on top. Children absorb these attitudes from home and bring them to school. The recognition of this attitude is also transmitted to prospective teachers. It is a reason that bright young people choose careers other than teaching. What persons in their right minds want to designate themselves as a lowly grunts in the eyes of society?

But another factor in the growing teacher shortage is the huge difference in pay between administrators and teachers. School superintendents, who in this day and age are often hired because they will lackey to the school board rather than provide professional guidance, get paid three and four times as much as senior teachers. For some the money is worth a lifetime of groveling. However, that groveling often does more to harm actual education than help it. Bright young people do not want to grovel or serve grovelers as a career.

People forget that the term principal once referred to the "principal teacher." A superintendent was an educational coordinator and faciilator, not a figurehead for the local school board. And school boards were not executive committess, but were the conduit of information between the public and the professional staffs.

Now, many superintendents put "CEO" after they names. That is probably the most telling symptom of what is truly wrong in education at this time.

[Also posted at Keloland Blogs.]


Douglas said...

Annual salary increases that are a percentage of current salary over the years have generated part of the great disparity between "executive" and "peon" salaries.

Giving the head of the SD regents a 3% raise adds probably $9600 to his salary. Tacked on to a minimum wage, 3% might be $450 or so. Work that out for a few years and see what happens to the disparity.

Public bodies need to look at what the cost of living increase would be for their lowest paid employees.
That should be the base increase. Beyond that should be whatever amount they feel they can spend on pay increases divided by the number of employees and paid on that basis rather than as percentage increase.

The current system rewards the already well rewarded. I guess that might be why they designed it this way.

))Doug Wiken (blogger or google has again eaten my login info)

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