In the fall of 2014, Greater Louisville Inc. and the Business Leaders for Education (BLE) came together to support stronger financial literacy among members of the JCPS Board. Many of us in the business community were disappointed with the systemic problems highlighted in the audit performed by then State Auditor Adam Edelen and we vowed to hold the district accountable for addressing his 200 recommendations. The November 2014 elections ushered in new faces with stronger financial credentials. The board changed and David Jones, Jr. was elected chair. Since then, the board and JCPS leadership have worked to boldly and methodically address the many challenges faced by our school district.
One of the biggest challenges the Board faces is allocation of limited resources within the district’s $1.4 billion budget, half of which is devoted to salaries and benefits for the 6,000 teachers and 7,000 administrative and support personnel. A recent independent survey found that hundreds of administrators in the system receive salaries that are higher than market – a fact that made headlines when the state audit of the system found that over 300 administrators were receiving in excess of $100,000 a year in pay. The recent survey found that JCPS is currently compensating staff at about $52-$66 million in “higher than market” administrative pay, most of which derived from a 1998 decision to link raises for administrators to the “stair steps” in teacher’s contracts rather than individual administrator performance.
It is the right time for JCPS’ Board to take a more active role in managing administrative salaries and to reallocate those tens of millions of dollars per year to programs that directly benefit our children in the system. Certainly, the administrative and support staff at JCPS work hard and are dedicated to public education and for that they should be paid competitively. What we are talking about here goes beyond competitive pay compared to similar districts, and is now taking advantage of a policy that no longer makes sense. President of the Jefferson County Teachers Association, Brent McKim, has recently tweeted that the “the good news in the salary review is there is $60 million in admin overhead that can and should be reduced/shifted to support students.”
We applaud the administration and JCPS Board for taking on this tough issue. The dollars involved here are large enough to move the needle on public education in Louisville if they are allocated properly. Imagine the impact that $52-$66 million in additional funding could have on early childhood programs, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) learning, English as a second language, and the myriad of enhancements that lay dormant year after year in need of funding.
Above all, we support above-market compensation for teachers. As a community, we should be willing to pay for top talent and will continue to expect them to deliver an above-market education to our kids. Well-compensated, highly-valued teachers in the classrooms are critical to driving change that we desperately need across the JCPS system.
As citizens, taxpayers, parents and employers, we need to support these bold actions to help students get the best education and the opportunities that go with it. If we don’t get involved, we rob the children in this community of the quality education and investment they deserve.
Kent Oyler, Greater Louisville Inc.
Roger Cude, Business Leaders for Education