Today, public school systems across the country are run by individuals that have never spent a day working in the private sector. They have no sense of reality when it comes to fair wage and benefit packages for non-teaching positions. Nepotism and favors are out of control, and once they have handed out all the money they think the voters should just give them more, no questions asked. Well, I’ve been asking questions and what I have found just in my local school district may surprise you. This will be the first in a series of articles in which I will attempt show that when it comes to spending money, kids don’t really seem to be the primary focus of public school systems and give examples of some of the ways that our tax dollars are being wasted. Believe me, this is not confined to one district. I would be willing to bet that to some degree, similar things are happening in every public school district across the nation. It is time for more people to start asking questions.
Every time there is a school levy on the ballot we hear things like: “It’s for the kids”, “Support the kids”, “Every child deserves a good education”. But is it really about the kids? When election day has come and gone and the campaign is over, are kids still the top priority? When they are making out the budgets and deciding where our money will be spent, are they still focused on what is best for the kids?
Why do I say that? Using my local district as an example let’s compare the starting salaries for a teacher, a football coach/hall monitor and the person that takes care of the artificial turf football field (fancy title: Turf Maintenance Specialist).
I don’t think there is any argument that the single most important position in any school system when it comes to the education of the children is the teacher. Teachers put together a plan for how they are going to teach the kids, are in direct contact with the kids throughout the day, have the most influence on the kids and are the people that the kids will remember for the rest of their lives. The good ones are teachers, confidants, counselors, mentors and disciplinarians all at the same time. They are required to have completed 4 years of college, have a Bachelors Degree and have passed a state administered test to obtain their teaching license. In addition to this, they are also required to take a certain number of continuing education classes each year and be actively working toward obtaining a Masters Degree. If the school administrators were truly focused on doing what is best for the kids, then a teacher would certainly have one of the highest starting salaries in the district.
Our district had just spent a few million dollars to tear down a perfectly good football stadium with a perfectly good natural grass field to build a brand new stadium which includes a $750,000.00 artificial turf field. They did this even though we have historically had a football team that finnishes in the bottom 50% of the league. Then they decided that we needed a new football coach. They were not looking for just any coach, they wanted to find the best coach the league had ever seen to come in and turn our team into a winning team. Why? To justify the cost of the stadium of coarse. They found someone that had (very briefly) played in the NFL and decided to offer them the job. The problem they faced was that football coaches in our league are usually paid less than $3000.00 per year to coach because they are usually teachers or other members of the community that have a full-time job. The solution? They created a new hall monitor position for this person which allowed them to be paid full-time in addition to coaching football. As it pertains to the kids, this person is definitely going to have an impact on the football players. To some degree they will also be a counselor, mentor and disciplinarian to this select group of kids. But they will only spend a couple hours a day with the players and the only contact they will have with the rest of the students will be in passing in the hall ways. I think we can agree that sports are a big part of the school experience, and a coach will be a person that the players will remember for the rest of their lives. But the training and responsibility of the job and the influence they will have on the kids is far less than that of a teacher.
With the new artificial turf came the need to have someone that knew how to maintain it. The board decided to hire a “Turf Maintenance Specialist”. In the job description for this position it states that it is preferred that this person have an Associates Degree and at least a couple years of experience in maintaining artificial turf. To justify this being a full-time position they put it in charge of all ground maintenance and made it a “supervisor” over a few laborers who would mow the grass. As it relates to the kids, the importance of this position is extremely low and it has absolutely no influence on the educational process. The person they found for this position was in his early 20’s, had the preferred Associated Degree, spent a few summers working in the maintenance department for the local Triple A baseball team and spent a year as an intern in the maintenance department of the local Major League baseball team.
So let’s review:
Teacher: Bachelors Degree, State License, Continuing Education Classes and working toward their Masters Degree. Most important position in the school as it relates to the kids.
Football Coach/Hall Monitor: Played in the NFL. Has an influence on the overall school experience of the kids, but far less important than a teacher.
Turf Maintenance Specialist: Associates Degree, three summers working for the local Triple A baseball team, one season as an intern for the local Major League baseball team. Position has no influence or importance in relation to the education of the kids.
The starting salaries:
Teacher: $35,000.00 p/y
Football Coach/Hall Monitor: $48,000.00 per year (left after one year, was a loosing season)
Turf Maintenance Specialist: $60,000.00 per year
Something to think about the next time you hear them say that it’s “For the Kids”
I strongly encourage you to get involved in your local public school system and start asking questions. Do a public records request for the salaries of administrators, teachers and support staff to see where the priorities really are. I guarantee that if you start paying attention, asking questions and doing public records requests you will find that they really don’t need to put another levy on the ballot because there are plenty of places to makes cuts without effecting the kids.