Excellent Work from the Columbia Daily Tribune
I’m sorry to have missed this story over the weekend, but it’s definitely worth noting. Janese Heavin lifted the curtain on payrolls in the Columbia Public Schools, revealing part of the reason the district must deal with a $10.35 million deficit. This story has led to some lively comments on her Class Notes blog.
The district, which serves about 17,000 students, currently employs 246 secretaries, or one for every 69 students, and pays 18 administrators annual salaries of more than $100,000, including Superintendent Phyllis Chase’s whopping $200,340 salary (not including a $7,200 transportation allowance, insurance, retirement benefits, and a district cell phone). All told, 125 district employees make more than the maximum teacher salary of $66,478. In order for teachers to reach that maximum which is roughly one-third of Superintendent Chase’s base salary they must have at least three decades of experience, plus a doctorate (or its equivalent).
A quick look at DESE’s statistics shows that the Columbia School District spent $206.1 million last year. That’s the equivalent of $12,382.50 per student, one of the highest per-student expenditures in the state. I kind of doubt that these administrators’ gigantic salaries or the plethora of secretaries would add up to $10.35 million worth of waste, but it doesn’t seem like a huge stretch to imagine that the same folks willing to spend so extravagantly on these positions might have added to the deficit by splurging in a few other areas. Now the city’s taxpayers are being asked to shoulder the burden of a substantial tax increase so that the city can put even more money in the hands of those who have put the district in its dire financial straits.
I’d say that Ms. Heavin’s work certainly gives Columbia’s voters something to think about.