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Austin School District Six-Figure Earners’ Increase Shows Payroll Inequities

Americans for Prosperity-Texas today applauded the reporting of the Austin American Statesman’s Melissa Taboada in this post:

Now we have heard it all.

While school districts across the state scream and holler about spending cuts in education, and they sue the state claiming the funding is not adequate, we see more examples of how those education dollars are spent.

And we aren’t happy about it.

The Austin American-Statesman today reports that the number of six-figure salary earners in the Austin school district has jumped 63 percent in the past five years, at a time when the district has had to tighten its belt and cut jobs.  (Good job reporting, Melissa Taboada!)

She writes: the salaries for the 12-member cabinet, excluding the superintendent, range from $115,360 to $204,970. Carstarphen caps the list with a base salary of $283,412.

Good job reporting how our education dollars are spent — or misspent.  It seems more and more, it’s about the bureaucrats than the teachers, more about those adults than about the kids.

The article also notes that “most of the other six-figure earners are executive directors, directors or middle and high school principals.”

“Quite frankly, it surprises me that the number of six-figure salaries has increased that much,” Ken Zarifis, president of Education Austin, an organization representing 3,000 district employees, told the Statesman.  “While in the big picture, that presents a small percentage, it still shows where we want to make our investments. When we have little dollars, where we put those dollars is where we show our value in the district and I think we need to value our teachers and our school employees above all else.”

Southwest Workers Union organizer Chavel Lopez represents about 200 of the lowest paid district employees, including cafeteria workers, bus drivers and custodians, and agrees “the disparity between the highest paid and lowest paid workers is inequitable.”

The Statesman quotes Charlie Jackson, a former AISD school board candidate, also taking issue as not about “having highly paid workers, but equity among all employees.”

“I watch the cafeteria workers, bus drivers and custodians come in and beg for a $1 or a 50 cent raise,” Jackson said. “The school board listens to their concerns but hasn’t adopted a policy to improve those wages. We need to be just and equitable across the board in terms of job security and wages for all employees. It makes sense that if we’re going to look at wages, we look at them in all areas, instructional and non-instructional.”

More than 600 Texas school districts are currently suing the state (i.e., Texas taxpayers) based on claims of funding inadequacy and inequity.  Texans for Real Efficiency and Equity in Education (TREE), a non-plaintiff group being allowed to present testimony, argues that Texas public schools’ lack of efficiency is the real issue.

In the aftermath of this lawsuit, it will be interesting to see if individual school districts take as strong a stand against their own demonstrated inequities as they are currently taking against inequities allegedly perpetrated by the state.

Regarding this legal action, AFP-Texas additionally points out:

It does seem absurd that as ISD’s are suing the state for more money (claiming funding is inadequate) and charging the legislature with not funding student enrollment growth, these edu-crats show us just where their spending priorities are.  And increasingly, those priorities don’t appear to be in the classroom.

Lou Ann Anderson

Lou Ann Anderson is an information activist. As a contributor at Raging Elephants Radio and Examiner Austin, she writes and speaks on a variety of public policy topics. Lou Ann is the creator and online producer at Estate of Denial®, a website that addresses probate abuse via wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney as well as other taxpayer advocacy issues.

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Categories: Budget and Finance, Education, Government Transparency, Waste, Fraud and Abuse
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