Conventional wisdom is that school teachers are underpaid.
That doesn't necessarily hold true for their bosses, though.
Lawrence-area school district administrators are being paid as much as four times the average Kansas wage, according to accountings of salaries released Tuesday.
A new state law requires that Kansas districts provide their local newspapers a list of administrators, their job titles, and salaries by Oct. 1.
And while each of the Lawrence-area districts complied with the law, school officials clearly resented the legislative mandate requiring the extra effort.
"I absolutely have no idea what the rationale is," said Lawrence Supt. Randy Weseman. "It sounds political to me. It sounds like people are trying to say school administrators are making too much money."
"It was completely political," Oskaloosa Supt. Loren Lutes said of the legislative order. "They want to give us some negative publicity."
Senate Bill 82 was signed by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in April and became law in July. It mandated delivery of the salary list to each district's official newspaper of record by Oct. 1 of each year. There is no requirement for newspapers to publish the list. And districts are not obligated to pay for publication.
The Journal-World decided to publish the list because taxpayers should know how public funds are being spent, said Richard Brack, managing editor.
Public school district employee compensation is a matter of public record under Kansas law, but until now, individuals had to request specific information from districts to receive the data.
Annual salaries of superintendents in Lawrence-area districts ranged from a low of $71,791 for McLouth Supt. Jean Rush to the high of $130,320 paid to Lawrence's Weseman.
In the Lawrence district, the summary of 62 administrative employees shows 19 administrators have salaries that top $70,000; 10 earn more than $80,000; and three, including Weseman, were paid more than $90,000.
Myron Melton, principal of West Junior High School, said he had mixed emotions about a law requiring distribution of salary details. He's in the group making from $70,000 to $80,000.
"Mandating those be released, it feels a little like it's an invasion of privacy," he said. "By the same token, it's always been public information."
Jim Edwards, governmental relations specialist for the Kansas Association of School Boards, said the new law emerged after debate about an existing law requiring some districts to disclose salaries.
Instead of deleting the statute, lawmakers updated the measure.
Some legislators who backed the bill said the public should have easy access to the information, Edwards said. Others appeared to have a secondary agenda, he said.
"There are some in the Legislature who believe you could solve all the problems of education by eliminating administrators," Edwards said. "They wanted to prove a point."
He said the association worked with committees in the Senate and House to get a version of the bill that didn't place a big reporting burden on districts.
Dale Dennis, deputy commissioner of the Kansas State Board of Education, said lists supplied to individual newspapers would be of marginal value if analyzed outside the context of comparable information on other districts.
"That, in and of itself, doesn't help very much," he said.
Weseman said the Lawrence district's administrative salaries were based on market conditions.
"We are in Kansas," he said. "This is what it takes to attract people we need."
Anybody who thinks the Lawrence district is top-heavy hasn't done enough homework, Weseman said. Dozens of jobs have been eliminated during the past several years, he said.
The Lawrence district no longer has assistant superintendents, for example.
"I'm an administrative minimalist," Weseman said. "I have no desire to pad the administration. I don't feel like it produces results, and it only adds a burden to the organization."
|Here is a list of the annual average pay for 50 jobs in the 17-county area of northeast Kansas that includes Douglas County, and for the state.