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Stop Paying Paper-Pushing Administrators And Union Bosses Better Than Teachers

| July 16, 2012

teachers administrators bureaucrats florida unions

Not where great teachers belong. (Paul G)

By William Mattox

It was a brouhaha that left many students and parents in Florida’s capital city without a beloved principal. But for folks well beyond Tallahassee — and even Florida — it ought to serve as a wake-up call for re-thinking our society’s upside-down patterns in compensating educators.

Here’s what happened: On the Friday before Independence Day, the local school superintendent announced Leon High School principal Rocky Hanna had been “promoted” to a district office administrative role. The news startled almost everyone, including Hanna, and evoked an immediate firestorm.

Angry parents and students organized a rally to protest the move. The local newspaper – and many prominent residents – urged the superintendent to rethink his decision. Recent graduates wrote articles and letters describing how Hanna belonged at Leon High, “not at some district office desk job.”

To be sure, Hanna seemed perfectly suited for his position as principal of Florida’s oldest public high school. He is a graduate of Leon High, part of a family with deep roots at the school, and an inspirational leader who enthusiastically celebrated his students’ achievements in the classroom, on the athletic field and in the performing arts.

In addition, Hanna distinguished himself by giving special attention to an often-overlooked population: “regular” students who are neither high achievers nor potential dropouts. Moreover, Hanna won plaudits for pulling often-hilarious stunts to rally Leon students to participate in various community service projects.

So, why did Leon County school superintendent Jackie Pons pluck this popular principal from a position that fit him like a glove?  Pons said he needed Hanna in the district office to fill one of several openings caused by recent retirements. While this explanation failed to satisfy some Leon High loyalists, all I know is that this job change never would have happened had Hanna’s move not been a “promotion” to a higher-paying position.

Which begs a larger question: why are compensation patterns in education so upside down?  Why do we typically compensate great teachers and great principals less than district office supervisors whose administrative skills, while valuable, are often less central to education’s primary task?

Can anyone imagine the owner of the Miami Heat announcing that LeBron James has done such an outstanding job leading his team to the NBA championship that he is being “promoted” to a front-office job?

Can anyone imagine the University of Alabama president announcing that Nick Saban has done such a good job winning football national championships that he is being “promoted” to a senior administrative position in the Crimson Tides’ athletic department?

The reason these scenarios are so unimaginable is because compensation patterns in the world of sports are guided largely by market forces. Stars get paid like stars. Role players get paid like role players. Top administrators earn a lot, but they rarely make more than the stars they oversee. The stars are at the center of the action, where high performance is most prized – and where differences in quality affects outcomes the most.

Thankfully, the Florida Legislature has taken steps in recent years to introduce performance-based pay into the education sector. Sadly, its efforts have been strongly resisted by the union officials that claim to represent Florida’s teachers.

This begs another question: Why do the union officials who negotiate on behalf of teachers make dramatically more money than the teachers themselves?  Most Hollywood agents make only a fraction of the stars they represent.  Yet according to recent Labor Department filings, the head of the National Education Association currently makes $362,644. The head of the American Federation of Teachers pulls down $407,323 a year. Here in Florida, more than half the Florida Education Association’s employees have six-figure compensation packages.

Meanwhile, the average Florida teacher earns less than $50,000 a year – even if she’s a star.

Clearly, it’s time to rethink compensation in education. We need more performance-based pay to reward great teachers – and to prevent great principals from being “promoted” to desk jobs that take them away from the students they inspire. That, at least, seems to be the lesson from the recent brouhaha in Tallahassee.

William Mattox is a columnist with Florida Voices and a resident fellow at the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee.

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18 Responses for “Stop Paying Paper-Pushing Administrators And Union Bosses Better Than Teachers”

  1. I'm Not Saying...I'm Just Saying says:

    No different than the structure of the private sector. The CEO and his cronies (union head, admins) get the huge checks while the people on the front lines (teachers) get the scraps.

    • PCer says:

      The highest paid district employee should not be paid more than 100% higher than the lowest paid teacher. So, if a first year teacher with a BA makes $40,000 per year, then the Superintendent should not make more than $80,000 per year. If they want a raise, then teachers get raises too.

      • I'm Not Saying...I'm Just Saying says:

        Agree 110 percent, PCer. So long as the powers that be run education like a private sector business model, admin salaries will continue to skyrocket while average teacher salaries get pushed towards the poverty line.

      • Eve says:

        I agree. Also, we need to take a look at School Board Members pay, averaging $31,000 plus benefits. Why does someone who works a few hours a month get paid more than school employees that work 40 hours a week?

  2. Tired HS Teacher says:


  3. PalmCoast says:

    Hooray!! some great thinking!!….hope this theory filters down to Flagler County!

  4. Gov employee says:

    Does anyone think that a gun was held to Rocky Hanna’s head to make him move to the admin job as this article implies? Does anyone think that someone running a national organization like the NEA should be paid the same as a local teacher with a class of 30 students? Would Mitt Romney agree to make the same pay as one of his office clerks at Bain Capital?

    • MSFB says:

      No,but if these people heading up the NEA and AFT were worth the monies being paid to them then teachers and staff would be a lot better off. As far as I can see neither of these organizations have done squat for teachers and staff. If a CEO did what these people do, the share holders would be calling for their resignation.

  5. Walter Mahler says:

    … and this is true for business where those who toil to make the company profitable have salaries that are barely keeping up with inflation while the CEOs make obscene amounts of money off of the workers backs. The salary gap for this country has never been greater and our values are getting swallowed up.

  6. Lefty Loon says:

    Teachers are free to form a school that is owned by the teachers where they are shareholders. The whole thing can be setup so it is run democratically. Then there is no need for unions or administrators with fat paychecks since these things would hurt to profitability of the school and hurt the teachers. Like minded teachers could form school freely based on cultural and social ideals. This would appeal to like minded families of students. This is what liberty is all about. The communities should run the schools and not a national organization. FREEDOM!!!!!!

  7. roco says:

    Teachers can always de-certify their union and they would get a pay increase by being paid for there abilty and skill.. Civil employees should NEVER be allowed to organize. It’s great what’s happening in Wisconsin and having the people have a vote..

  8. FRTK says:

    They also set themselves up nicely to ride out the last years before retirement at a higher pay and classification. This helps in the Florida Retirement System which is done here in FCSD often.

  9. Anonymous says:

    The top paid person in a district or teachers union should not be paid more than 100% of the lowest paid teacher. So, if the lowest paid (first year) teacher makes $40,000 a year, than the Superintendent should not make more than $80,000 per year. If they want more $$$, than they should give their teachers a raise first.

  10. ExMHSteacher says:

    I agree with everything in this article. Im quite frankly appalled that my union contribution (which did take a hefty chunk out of a one income families’ budget is spent lining the pockets to such a great extent. I have no issue with people making a fair salary, but when its on the backs and the hard work of others, I do have to object.
    I recently left Flagler, and was hesitant to do so as I loved working at MHS. Unfortunately, I left because the compensation was not able to support my family and I was compelled to move. When speaking to my principle and explaining the matter, we both knew that there was nothing to be done to change this. I know Im not a star, but I also know that Im a good teacher.
    My case is far from uncommon. Too many (good) teachers are forced to move or leave teaching completely because of the glass ceiling that limits teacher income. The average income of Florida teachers is reported to be about 46,000 (, but in real terms has decreased by 0.2% since 1999, while in almost every other state, Teacher salary has increased (in some states by as much as 27%!) While at the same time, the cost of teacher certification has increased hugely.

  11. Emily says:

    Why do School Board members get paid? How much can we shave off the budget by cutting out their pay and benefits? How many non instructional jobs can we save if we stop paying school board members?

  12. agnese says:

    There is always too much fat at the top, many of the non teaching district jobs should be eliminated, freeing up more pay for the teachers who really deserve it

  13. PCer says:

    How about we put some (or all) of the administrators back in the classroom? Require them to teach 1 class per semester. Too many of them have forgotten what its like to be in the classroom.

  14. "My Daily Rant" says:

    Its the Democrat way back unions just ask Obama

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