The Irascible ProfessorSM


Irreverent Commentary on the State of Education in America Today

by Dr. Mark H. Shapiro
"Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status." ... ... Laurence J. Peter.
 

Commentary of the Day - December 19, 2005:  Looking Out for Number One.

Two items crossed the Irascible Professor's desk recently that show the extent to which school and university administrators protect their own to the detriment of both faculty members and students.

The first item was a story in The Sacramento Bee by reporter Phillip Reese that looked at how administrators fared compared to teachers in 25 California school districts that had lost enrollment over the past five years.  Although the total enrollment in K-12 classrooms in California has continued to grow during that period, some 40% of the school districts in the state have lost enrollment in the past five years.  There are several reasons for these declines.  In some urban districts high housing costs have driven families with young children to less expensive suburbs.  Rural districts have lost enrollment as families have moved to areas where jobs are more plentiful.  And, in some districts static, aging populations have caused declines in school enrollments.

As Reese points out, school district funding in California -- which now comes mainly from the state budget -- is closely tied to enrollment.  One would expect that as enrollment declines in a school district that there would be a corresponding decline in personnel.  But as Reese found in his survey of 25 districts in the central and northern parts of California that lost enrollment, that was only partially true.  While the number of teachers declined in 22 of the 25 districts, only eight of the 25 reported a decline in administrators.  And, in eight of the 25 districts the number of administrators actually increased.

It is understandable that some small districts might find it difficult to reduce the number of administrators they employ because every district has to deal with a certain minimum level of state and federally mandated requirements.  However, it is less plausible that some of the larger districts with declining enrollments can't streamline enough of their administrative functions so that all of the reductions in staff don't have to come from faculty ranks.  One excuse frequently given for the need for more administrators even as enrollments fall and teaching positions are being cut is that the No Child Left Behind Act has imposed substantial new administrative burdens on school districts.  Somehow this argument rings a bit hollow, however, when one considers the 50 new administrators added to the staff of the Sacramento City Unified School District during a period where its enrollment fell by about 1% according to Reese's article.  To be sure, that one per cent is not a huge drop,  but one has to wonder what those 50 new administrators are doing to advance the education of Sacramento pupils.

The second item to cross the IP's desk that reaffirmed his belief that administrators always look out for their own was an email message from the local faculty union president here at Krispy Kreme U.

But first a little background.  Owing to the rather precarious condition of the California state budget for the past few years essentially all California State University employees -- administrators, faculty members, and staff members -- had gone without cost-of-living pay increases for three years.  This year's budget showed some improvement; and, following protracted negotiations (still ongoing in some cases) faculty and staff members were granted cost-of-living increases that averaged about 3.5%.

The email message that the IP received included a table that showed the salary increases granted by the CSU Board of Trustees to the campus presidents.  Now these fine leaders sacrificed along with their faculty and staff members during the hard times, and they certainly were deserving of some consideration now that times are better.  However, the IP was a little taken aback to learn that the California State University campus presidents received pay increases that averaged 13%.  How does that old saying go "them's as has gets".
 

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