California school employees are squirming to justify their top-dollar salaries to the public after a government watchdog group recently launched an online database with the eye-opening compensation records of over a half-million employees.
“The public votes on tax measures, bond measures without complete knowledge about how the money is being spent,” Ed Ring, executive director of the California Policy Center, told the LA Times. “Taxpayers are paying these salaries so they have a right to know.”
That’s why the Center recently launched Transparent California, a searchable online database with compensation figures for more than 581,000 California public school employees, as well as pay data for other public sector employees.
And the figures are staggering.
“Last year, James Hammond, the superintendent of the Montclair-Ontario Unified School District in the Inland Empire, was paid $492,077. Jonathan Eagan, the principal of a junior high school in the Bay Area city of Martinez made $279,669,” the Times reports.
“And 31 custodians at California public schools were paid more than $100,000 in 2013.”
The data was collected through public information requests sent by the Center to 1,058 school districts across the state, though only about 653 responded with relevant data. The Los Angeles school district, for example, hasn’t released the salary figures for its school employees.
The data the Center did receive back, however, certainly erode the relentless claim by union and school officials that school districts are underfunded.
“The group found that the average full-time teacher in California made $84,889 last year and about 34,750 teachers were paid more than $100,000 in total compensation. One hundred superintendents made more than $250,000 last year, the data shows,” according to the Times.
The other often overlooked issue the transparency site illustrates is the practice of many public school employees who retire to collect their taxpayer-funded pensions, only to return to the classroom to collect a second salary.
The “double-dipping” is far more prevalent than many taxpayers realize, and the Center is calling on lawmakers to correct the unfair practice.
“So-called public servants should not be allowed to bilk taxpayers out of a second salary because of a legal loophole,” Mark Bucher, the Center’s president, told the Times.
Of course, the California Teachers Association – the statewide teachers union – is working to dismiss the database as “an invasion of privacy that doesn’t really serve any meaningful purpose,” union spokeman Frank Wells said.
The union allegedly supports efforts to inform taxpayers about general union pay schedules and school budgets, but “we see no legitimate purpose in taking that down to the individual teacher level by name …,” Wells told the Times.
There’s little doubt that the union’s keep-it-general mentality stems from concerns that if the public truly understands how much school employees take home, they’d be far less likely to support annual tax increases to fund unnecessary raises and other employee perks.
The pay data – which includes base pay, overtime, benefits and other forms of compensation – provides a far more accurate picture of employee take home pay than the basic union salary schedule, which doesn’t account for special stipends and other union pay perks.
By creating a publicly accessible online database, local residents now have the power to follow the ever-increasing pay of local educators from one year to the next, and will better understand how the union pay structure is strangling public schools.
That’s obviously a bad thing for union business, but it’s precisely the type of information all taxpayers need to know in order to make a truly informed decision about local tax proposals that fund these over-the-top compensation plans.