High LAUSD School Board Salaries Spared by Senate Bill

KATE SEQUEIRA/EDSOURCE

Board member Monica Garcia walks the campus of Liechty Middle School in Westlake with Superintendent Alberto Carvalho on the first day of school.

A Senate bill waiting for the governor’s signature would change California’s education code to align with how Los Angeles Unified pays its school board members, allowing compensation more than five times the initial code ceiling. LAUSD currently pays $125,000 to school board members who do not have outside jobs, as opposed to the $24,000 currently allowed for a district its size under the education code.

LAUSD currently operates through a City of Los Angeles Charter Rulewhich states that compensation should be set by a compensation committee made up of stakeholders and community members selected by officials from outside the district, which the bill would specify is permitted.

Compensation committee decisions on salary placed LAUSD board members at a pay level nearly seven times the amount earned by board members of the second-largest school district in the state. State. According to 2021 data from Transparent California, San Diego Unified school board members earn $18,000 — the maximum under the state cap for a district its size. The district’s average daily attendance is just under 100,000 for the 2020-21 school year, according to Ed Data.

The New York City Department of Education and Chicago Public Schools, the largest and third largest public school systems in the nation, appoint rather than elect their school board members, and they do not receive no annual salary, which makes it difficult to compare them to LAUSD, which is the second largest district in the country. Miami-Dade County Public Schools, which ranks fourth, paid $47,189 to their board members last year.

If the bill — introduced by Sen. Bob Hertzberg and sponsored by LAUSD — passes, it would change the language of the education code to include the ability for the local city charter law to set compensation and remove the cap for the highest level of school districts, which currently only includes LAUSD.

The bill would also change the tier threshold of an average daily footfall from 400,000 to 250,000 to keep LAUSD in the upper tier as its listing continues to decline. LAUSD’s average daily attendance was 455,015 during the 2020-21 school yearand district project enrollment will continue to decline 3.6% per year.

As noted in the bill’s analysis, LAUSD believes that the LA City Charter rule supersedes the cap stated in the education code.

Frank Zerunyan, a USC professor of governance practice, said it’s not entirely clear whether the city charter will replace the education code since the California Supreme Court has primarily reviewed the domicile rule on a case-by-case basis. It would depend on whether the courts consider the issue a municipal or state matter. However, he acknowledged that the city of Los Angeles could have some political influence.

“Given the manpower and work force in the city, it seems to me that politically they would have the upper hand to argue for local control,” Zerunyan said. “But again, it’s a matter of law.”

The compensation committee that oversees LAUSD school board salaries last updated LAUSD compensation in 2017, when it more than doubled the salary of full-time board members from $45,637. at $125,000. The compensation committee that oversaw the increase was first formed under the direction of the city’s Measure L in 2007, which also addressed term limits and campaign contribution caps. The committee is required to reassess compensation every five years.

According to LAUSD’s 2017 resolution, the compensation committee pointed to the extent of the responsibilities of district and board members as the reason for the salary increase.

Much of the conversation around the big pay rise in 2017 stemmed from a desire to make school board service more accessible as well as an intention to align responsibilities and compensation, noted Julie Marsh. , professor of education at USC. School board members currently oversee districts larger than those overseen by the Los Angeles City Council. In 2017, board members earned $191,000 per year. Council members earned approximately $218,000 in 2021.

“There’s a lot in there, when you start thinking about school boards,” Marsh said, saying the level of pay leads to other conversations about responsibilities. “I think that often leads to questions about the role of the school board versus the superintendent.”

She noted that some refer to the school district as being governed by eight officers rather than just the superintendent.

The bill only removes the cap for upper-tier school districts, which only includes LAUSD. It’s unclear how many other districts in California determine compensation under an established charter., but San Francisco’s charter caps compensation at $500 a month for San Francisco Unified, $250 less than what’s allowed for districts its size under the education code. Cities like San Diego and Long Beach have sections in their charters that deal with San Diego Unified and Long Beach Unified school board elections.

School board compensation generally falls under the California Education Code, which dictates a tiered system for board member compensation based on the district’s average daily attendance. The Santa Barbara and Whittier charters specifically adhere to the education code regarding compensation.

Tiers range from $60 per month for school districts with fewer than 150 students to $2,000 per month for districts with more than 400,000 students. School board members in school districts with between 10,000 and 25,000 students can receive up to $400 per month.

“LAUSD carries weight as the largest in the state and with many elected state officials in this area, so I think they have quite a bit of power and influence,” Marsh said.

The bill not only mandates changes to the upper tier’s average daily attendance threshold for pay regulation, but also for certain rules and exemptions regarding gender, ownership and employment issues that are also based on number. average daily attendance as LAUSD tackles drop in registrations. Although originally intended to change the threshold to 300,000 for all of these codes when introduced, the bill was amended to include a threshold of 250,000 after a change recommended by the Assembly Education Committee .

LAUSD enrollment peaked 20 years ago when it reached 737,000, but has continued to decline since then, reaching 430,000 last year, according to district data. The district predicts enrollment will fall another 28% by 2030. The decline has worsened with declining birth rates, slowing immigration and the departure of families due to the rising cost of housing. life, especially housing. The district also estimates that between 10,000 and 20,000 students are “absent” from the district and not attending school.

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Norman D. Briggs