Monday, January 03, 2005

Florida School Board Dodges Accountability

Fiscal Shell Game
The Florida Times-Union is reporting (easy gender/zip code registration required) that the School Board in Duval County (which is really only the city of Jacksonville) is set to vote itself a second pay raise in as many years. After all, some might think that the $37,032 salary isn't enough for a part-time job. (Even though the board only meets only once per month, we assume that there must be some time spent in preparing for said meeting along with other duties such as touring school campuses while being fawned upon by eager-to-please school administrators.)

So we are not that too concerned about these hard-working board members salaries. Nor are we worried too much about the fact that they are going to vote themselves yet another pay raise. That is as it should be. If the public is unhappy, they can always vote the bums out during the next electoral cycle. (Of course it would be nice if they were required to vote themselves raises within 6 months before the election rather than just after the election.)

What bothers us most here at the 'Wonks is the fact that this board is changing the rules that they use to get those annual pay-raises.

Next year's pay raise will be automatic. Those folks on the Duval County School Board are absolute geniuses. They have found a way to avoid all the possible hazards that may result from giving themselves an annual increase in compensation.

This Board Clique is going to follow the recommendations of an unelected (and therefore unaccountable to the voters) committee of the Florida School Boards Association. Every year, the Association recommends an increase in compensation for its member boards. And this week, the Duval County School Board is going to amend its policies in order to install a mechanism for implementing a raise that will be equal to the recommendations of this un-elected Association.

The Duval County School Board will never need to vote itself a raise again.

The Board's Chairwoman, Nancy Broner said, "We want to remove politics from the process."

She and the other hard-working part-timers on the Board are about to achieve their objective.

After-all, during the next campaign when a challenger mentions the obvious, "Hey! Look at what a mess the schools are in. Why did y'all just give yourselves another pay-raise?"

The already all-but-untouchable incumbents will be then able to state categorically, " We didn't give ourselves any raise. It was completely out of our hands."(Of course, the person who delivers the previous line is required to wear that superior smile that politicians have on their face when they diffuse an issue by simply referring to it as "Out of our hands.") The incumbent will go on to say, "It isn't my fault, the raise is built-in to our by-laws."

This is just another example of the type of maneuvers that some elected officials (including the United States Congress) will go through to reduce eliminate any risk to their practically lifetime
positions sinecures.

Of course this particular board will continue to hold its teachers accountable for their actions. At its monthly meeting Tuesday evening, the board will fire classroom teacher Kimberly Gray for, "Using profanity and vulgar language during an argument with a student at Landon Middle School."

That's what makes working in today's public school system such a fun and exciting challenge. Accountability for everyone except those at the top.

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