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Pocatello/Chubbuck School District reality check

Pocatello/Chubbuck School District reality check

Mitch Coffman
May 17, 2010
Mitch Coffman
May 17, 2010

The Idaho Freedom Foundation has criticized the Pocatello/Chubbuck school board for violating state open meetings law. Under the guise of personnel issues, the school board went into executive session and then cut all administrative salaries by 6.9%. Reducing an entire class of employees’ salaries is a budget issue, not a personnel one, and all germane discussion needs to happen in public, not behind closed doors.

The volunteer members of the school board likely were following their attorney’s advice when they went into executive session. Although this does not excuse holding a public meeting the wrong way, at least they were trying to do the right thing and make their budget fit fiscal reality. They should be commended for doing so in the face of serious flak from employees of Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25, parents and students.

What will cutting administrators’ salaries by 6.9% mean to those affected? Here are their salaries courtesy of The Idaho Freedom Foundation’s government transparency website OurIdaho.com:

  • The superintendent’s annual salary will drop from $129,857 to $120,897
  • Three high school principals making $87,567 will make $81,525
  • Six high school assistant principals making $69,741 - $80,931 will make $64,929 - $75,347
  • Three middle school principals making $76,058 - $82,152 will make $70,810 - $76,487
  • Four middle school assistant principals making $65,748 - $69,798 will make $60,935 - $64,982
  • Fourteen elementary school principals making $64,196 - $79,833 will make $59,766 - $74,325
  • Eight directors of curriculum, human resources, special education, etc. making $85,622 - $93,467 will make $79,714 - $87,018

The median salary in Pocatello in 2009 was $28,434* which includes many people who, unlike administrators, do not have graduate degrees. Here are the median annual salaries in Pocatello for other professions requiring post-secondary degrees:

  • Registered nurse: $58,718
  • Dentist: $62,941
  • Medical and public health social worker: $52,270
  • Lawyer: $56,264
  • Pharmacist: $92,685

All middle school assistant principals in Pocatello will continue to make more money than many registered nurses, social workers and lawyers. High school assistant principals will make more money than most dentists.

Because every Idahoan pays part of the salary of every Pocatello/Chubbuck School District employee, it’s appropriate to ask: are the 39 public employees making well-above-average salaries using our money wisely to educate students in their charge? At best, the answer is unclear. Although there is a lot wrong with using Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) to judge teacher competence, it’s a consistent statewide measure of school and district outcomes. In 2007-2008, School District 25 failed to make overall AYP towards 100% proficiency in reading, math and language by 2014, which is unacceptable by state standards.

Above-average salaries for people with post-secondary degrees don’t lead to above-average outcomes for students in School District 25. It’s worth keeping this fact in mind during budget-cut discussions.

*The Idaho Department of Labor reports wages by the hour. I calculated annual wages by multiplying hourly wage times 40 hours/week times 52 weeks/year.

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