The Jordan School District Board of Education raised its own pay from $3,000 per year to $12,000 last week. It also bestowed health insurance benefits on its members; but if board members choose not to take the health insurance, they get a cash payment instead: an extra $17,456. That means it’s possible to pull down $29,000-plus for serving on a school board.
Compare that to a starting salary for a school teacher in the Jordan District: $31,672.
Naively, we — and, we’ll bet, most other Utahns — had always assumed the people who run for school board positions did so for primarily altruistic reasons: For some, it may be a first stepping stone to another public office, but at heart these people want to help the children, shape the future, that kind of thing. In other words, we had believed the story that they performed the service for honorable reasons.
While we’re sure some do, others are obvious mercenaries. Kim Horiuchi, a Jordan Board member, was quoted in a Salt Lake newspaper as saying, “I mean, $3,000 is just really an insult” given the time and effort board members put into their positions. Media reports have the various board members whining about time away from family, the expense of hiring babysitters, travel to and from board meetings, time spent talking with concerned parents and education officials, overseeing an $850 million annual budget, etc.
Oh, the humanity.
And while this would otherwise be an amusing tale of greed and shameful behavior on the part of would-be public servants — they’re down south in Salt Lake County, after all, normally off our radar — we recognize this for what it really is. The Jordan School District Board of Education is taking a bullet for the team, for the other school boards in Utah. If the Jordan Board should manage to survive with its ridiculous pay raise intact, the result will be a windfall in pay raises to school boards across the Beehive State [emphasis added]. The Washington and Alpine boards are discussing pay increases, too.
The enablers of this disreputable situation are Utah lawmakers and the governor, who changed the law that limited compensation to $3,000.
Over the past decade, there has been a slow but steady movement within Utah’s various government bodies — municipalities, counties, the schools and the state — to equate what once was regarded as lower-paying but noble government service with exploitative business practices.
If people serving on our school boards think $3,000 — or $4,000 or $5,000 — per year is too little, they should resign to make way for someone who has first and foremost a passion for serving the children, the teachers and the schools. This should not be tolerated, anywhere.
I have nothing to add.
UPDATE: Even the SL Trib Editorial Board has come around to smack them over this (sort of) – The Standard Examiner was much more focused and solid on the issue.