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School Board Pay Comes Under Attack

On Friday we learned that the state Legislature was planning to form a committee with appointments from the governor and other Republican leaders to oversee the Broward County School Board's response to the grand jury report. 

The School Board's lobbyist, Georgia Slack, went into full "frantic" mode and, with the help of state Sen. Nan Rich, the mother of board member Laurie Rich Levinson, convinced Sen. Steven Wise, who was proposing the legislation, to remove the provision from the bill. 

I'm not so sure state oversight of the derelict School Board would be a bad idea, but another proposal from Wise certainly is. The Jacksonville Republican is backing legislation to ban salaries for 

School Board members altogether, save a $100 stipend for each board meeting. 

Obviously a lot of recent School Board members in Broward County didn't deserve their $30,000 salary. If anything, they should be paying us to help pay the $2 billion debt they created while wasting hundreds of millions of dollars. Some deserved nothing less than prison, which is what a couple of them are going to get. 

​But this idea is unwise to say the least. With no salary for the position, only the wealthy people would be able to afford the job. Or the political climbers who don't mind relying on lobbyists and other influence peddlers for a little payback (which is unfortunately what has been going on in Broward board anyway).  

Being a board member, if done right, is a full-time job overseeing not only all the classrooms of Broward but billions of dollars in taxpayers' money. Right now, it pays about $39,000. I'm not sure if that salary should be increased, but it certainly shouldn't be lowered. There must be some incentive to get good, smart people to run for the board -- and making it a volunteer job isn't one of them. 

Some local politicians make too much -- like county commissioners. We pay them a nice, fat salary of $92,000 for what many of them treat as a part-time job at best. Several do outside work. The good money is supposed to help make them immune from kickbacks -- but as we have seen, that hasn't worked. In Miami, one of the proposed reforms is to raise commissioners' pay from a paltry $6,000 to $92,000 while banning all outside work for commissioners. I think an outside-work ban would be a good idea for Broward commissioners too (you may remember that Ken Keechl promised as much but then took a job at a local law firm to break his pledge).   

But don't make any mistake about it: The Wise proposal to strip School Board members of their salaries is just another sneering shot by a Republican Legislature that wants to ultimately gut public education altogether.  

And it casts serious doubt not only on the Sen. Wise's competence and motives but also on his idea that the state take a supervisory role for the Broward School Board. If this is an indication of his judgment, he should probably keep his ass in Jacksonville and leave us alone. 

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman

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