Friday, August 18, 2006

Class I Educator’s $101,000 Salary
Shows Rural Schools Are More Efficient After All;

Raikes Should Apologize, STAT

It was embarrassing Thursday when the head of the Legislature’s Education Committee referred to a $101,000 salary of a longtime educator in a Class I country school as “obscene” in inch-tall type on Page One of Nebraska’s largest newspaper, and then called her an “80-year-old lady” as if that was something bad.

But what’s more embarrassing, for Nebraska and for him, is how wrong State Sen. Ron Raikes is about the cost-efficiency and spending patterns between the educator’s now-defunct rural school, Stull School, and the larger K-12 district into which Raikes’ LB 126 forced it to consolidate as of this school year, the Plattsmouth Community School District.

Stull School actually cost $353.67 less per pupil than the Plattsmouth district in the most-recent school year for which figures are available.

Moreover, Stull School spent 85% of its funding on instruction, while Plattsmouth spent only 63%, according to 2004-05 annual financial reports on file with the Nebraska Department of Education.

One would think Sen. Raikes should have known about that. Either he deliberately ignored it to deceive people into thinking Class I schools cost more money than town schools, or he was ignorant of the facts, in which case he probably should resign from being chief of the Legislature’s lawmaking, fund-allocating and policy-setting committee on education. As it is, he really should apologize to the state in general and the educator he smeared in particular.

Has it come to this in Nebraska? Beating up on “an old lady” to try to get your way?

The main difference: much higher administrative spending in the Plattsmouth district. While Stull School showed zero’s for a superintendent’s salary and total executive administration categories, Plattsmouth was spending $112,020 and $174,690, respectively, that school year. While Stull’s halftime principal absorbed $41,858.85, principals within Plattsmouth cost $174,690. Further, Stull spent just $7,935.44 for board of education expenditures and $2,253 for general administration and business services . . . in stark contrast to Plattsmouth’s $98,372 and $192,690, respectively.

Because Class I schools are so small, they don’t have or need formal administrative structures. Usually, a teacher doubles as an administrator, and that was the case at Stull School up until this fall. The educator in question, Carrie Ann Hansen, 79, worked a half-day as a kindergarten teacher, and the other half day as principal of the 62-pupil school.

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