Trimming Down the School Board Budget
Today’s Washington Post reported that the Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) may need to cut more than 1,100 additional positions in order to close the budget shortfall they are facing in FY 2012. Before they rush to distribute pink slips to teachers and increase classroom sizes, perhaps they ought to dig deeper into their own administrative costs.
Yesterday I took some time to review the proposed FY 2012 budget for PGCPS. In particular, I wanted to get a snapshot of how our spending on administrative staff compares with our spending on teachers. As the superintendent states, “Children are our business, and they come first,” and compensating our teachers appropriately and keeping them in the classroom is the most important part of making sure our children’s educational needs are met.
I started with one obvious administrative function of PGPCS, the Department of Human Resources. Beginning on page 167 of this document, you can see for yourself that we are spending millions of dollars each year managing human capital. Now, being a government employee myself, I understand the importance of hiring, benefits, compensation, and other functions that this department performs. However, extravagant spending on human resources management should not be prioritized at the expense of our teachers. Because the FY 2012 budget document indicated that the Human Resources Department had recently reorganized, it was difficult to interpret how the money was being spent, particularly on salaries and wages.
In order to get more transparency, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Chief of Human Resources, and copied my school board representative, Vice Chair Donna Hathaway-Beck. I was very pleased with their expedient response. After exchanging some brief e-mail messages, Human Resources provided me with a summary of salaries paid to a total of 41 employees in Human Resources Operations, one of the four divisions represented in the department. I asked specifically for this information after the budget document indicated that $2.9 million was spent on salaries for these 41 employees, and this figure did not include the cost of their benefits. This sum averages out to approximately $70,000 per person. Here’s the additional detail I received regarding the salary information:
FTE = Full Time Employee
- HR Operations Director (One FTE) = $151,192
- Administrative Secretary IV (One FTE) = $89,663
- Secretary III (One FTE) = $68,924.88
- Lead Data Entry Technician (One FTE) = $72,140.40
- Data Entry Technician (Four FTEs) = $255,804.32
- Supervisor, Classification & Compensation (One FTE) = $120,154
- Supervisor, Benefits (One FTE) = $120,154
- Supervisor, HMRS (One FTE) = $99,955
- HR Assistant I (Eight FTEs) = $395,487.68
- HR Assistant II (Five FTEs) = $296,057.52
- HR Clerk (One FTE) = $40,841.28
- HR Specialist I (Two FTEs) = $154,447
- HR Specialist II (One FTE) = $92,941
- HR Specialist III, Absence Mgt (One FTE) = $101,251
- HR Specialist III, Compensation (Three FTEs) = $300,634
- HR Specialist III, HRIS (Two FTEs) = $217,964
- HR Specialist III, Wellness (One FTE) = $108,982
- Records Technician (One FTE) = $89,663
- Records Room Clerk (Five FTEs) = $185,142.96
Grand Total = $2,961,399.04
Now, I’m not sure how these salaries compare to other jurisdictions, but it was difficult for me to get past the first line of the document, indicating that an administrative secretary makes $89,000/year. The Director of this division makes $151,000/year. A Data Entry Technician (yes, that’s data entry, folks) makes an average of $63,750/year, and not surprisingly, a high school diploma is the only education requirement for this position. You can examine these figures for yourself and make your own determination about whether these salaries are fair.
Let’s compare these salaries with our teachers’ compensation. A new teacher who possesses a bachelor’s degree, will begin a PGCPS career making $47,000, according to the latest information provided on the PGCPS website. If that teacher remains at PGCPS for 20 years and obtains a doctorate degree, the earning potential maximum is $110,000. It troubles me that our most important asset, our teachers, make far less than a mid-level human resources bureaucrat, and that a secretary within that organization makes $20,000 less than the earning potential of a highly-educated, experienced teacher. Individuals with teaching degrees could become data-entry technicians and get a $15,000 raise by doing so.
I don’t bring this information to your attention to shame the hard-working employees in the division of Human Resources Operations. I do, however, ask that Dr. Hite and the members of the School Board start to dig deeper into this budget for cuts, before they start handing out pink slips to our teachers. Three-day furloughs for our administrative executives is not going far enough to cut salaries for those making $100,000, or more, in these positions. Even those making less than that should have their jobs benchmarked against other jurisdictions. It will take courage on the part of our elected officials, because it’s tough to ask the human resources staff to benchmark themselves. They have little incentive to find ways to cut their own salaries.
The bottom line here is that we can’t put our children’s education on the chopping block without looking at other alternatives. My children are 4 and 2, and at this point I can’t imagine putting them into a kindergarten class with 25-30 students. I can afford the monetary sacrifice to put them into a private school if necessary, but many other parents do not have that luxury. I share their anxiety about “hoping” their children will get a good education in that kind of challenging environment, and feel the frustration of teachers who are being asked to educate our 5-year olds against those odds. If you feel the same way that I do, please don’t just sit back and be angry. Do something more. Let our school board know your frustration by appearing at their upcoming public hearings, and make sure your voice is heard before it’s too late.