Monday, January 17, 2011

Jeopardy Answer: $80,000

The Jeopardy Category?  Imponderables.
Not even Ken Jennings would get this one.

The Jeopardy Question?  How many dollars, above and beyond the high salaries and big bountiful bennies, do district administrative staff get according to Administrative Benefits portion of their contracts? 

Big juicy melons!  That's right, folks...$80,000 dollarinos.  Or, as a good friend's young daughter used to put it,  80,000 buck dollars.  We taxpayers foot the bill annually for $30,000 in mileage stipends, and $50,000 in professional growth stipends.  

They are divided into two forms: Mileage stipends--which are paid out in one check each month; and "Professional Growth Stipends".  The latter is a bit harder to pin down.  It seems that the professional growth stipends are budgeted for, funded by our tax dollars, and "held" in reserve in special accounts--29 of them.  Then, as an administrator exercises his/her option to expend from their accounts, they do so.  Like a little sub-checkbook within the master checkbook, money is moved out of these accounts to pay for magazines, membership, tuition, and conferences.

The big question is:  what happens to money left over?

The CarryOver Clause
You've heard of the "Santa Clause"...well, the administrator contracts contain a "carryover" clause:

3. The professional development stipend:
a. Must be related to each administrator’s annual professional growth plan goals;
b. Will not be subtracted from the administrator's operational or building budget;
c. Will be carried over annually, up to a maximum amount of $4,000 per administrator;
d. May be supplemented by funds from the administrator's operational budget;
e. May not be used for travel, conferences, or tuition during an administrator’s final year of employment with the school district

That's right, sports make those 29 checkbooks within a really big checkbook even checkier....each administrator is allowed to carryover up to $4,000...which could be more than 3 years worth for the administrators who only get an annual stipend of $1,375.

But....wait....what happens to any money that eventually doesn't get spent?  Where is THAT accounted for in our budget?  More to the point - when were we ever told about the fact it even exists?  Sun Prairie STAR editor Chris Mertes will probably blame Mealy and McFrei for this one too.  

Let's use an example.
Administrator "X" gets hired, and gets  his $2,000 stipend.  He doesn't spend anything in Year 1, so he carries over the $2,000.  Year 2 goes by...he "earns another $2,000, but again spends he carries over $4,000.  So now comes year 3.  "X" earns another $2,000.  And let's say he goes to a local conference, gets a subscription to Mad magazine, and even gets a membership to some local club.  "X" spends $500.  That means there's $5,500 in his "checkbook" at the end of the year, and he can only "carryover" $4,000.  What happens to the $1,500 in that case?  Inquiring minds want to know.

What are Teachers?  Chopped Liver?
Maybe we missed something, but isn't it TEACHERS that should be having professional development opportunities?  Why are we providing already overpaid administrators with stuff with which to pad their resumes?  Shouldn't we be promoting professional development for the ones that are actually teaching our kids?  Why is everything in this district so bass ackwards?