A Misguided Way To Diversify Washington State School Boards
Sen. Joe Nguyen, at the request of OSPI head Chris Reykdal filed SB 6223 last week that would address the way School Board Directors around the State are compensated. While a noble desire, their approach, and reasoning behind, are once again playing politics with schools.
School Board Directors make little to nothing while they make major decisions regarding their districts. They approve curriculum, set budgets, approve spending, hire the superintendent, visit schools, attend graduations, attend retreats...you get the idea. It is more time consuming and contains more responsibility that most people imagine.
For the amount of responsibility, they should get a stipend, but the reason for this bill is not because of the work being done by current school board members, but the belief that offering a real salary will guarantee a diversity rainbow.
Sen. Nguyen said in his statement about the bill:
“Those who govern our schools, though, are often not reflective of the communities they serve. We have a chance to remove a significant financial barrier to this critical role, opening up the opportunity to serve to many more interested community members.”
The release went on to cite figures from the State Dept. of Commerce that according to a recent survey, 13 % of Directors had an annual income of less that $60,000 and that 10% of current Directors were persons of color.
The solution to encourage more diversity is to pay a per diem of $128 per day, or a maximum of $500 per month, and 50 cents for every full time equivalent student based on the prior year's enrollment. So a school director in Seattle could make around $31,000 per year based on that math. A Sunnyside School Board Director would make around $7,089.50.
Things They Haven't Told You
While it sounds great, all districts aren't created equal and some, like Finley for example, won't make much more than the $500 per month maximum per diem. You also have to pay to file for any position that gets a recognized salary, 1% to be exact. Currently there is no filing fee for school board, this will change that.
If you don't have the financial resources to run with no filing fee, it would make it more difficult to run when you have to pay one. Add to that elections don't run themselves, they cost time and money. You want to win you need to invest time and money...hard to do if you don't have either. That doesn't factor in people filling in the circle by your name.
Let's not forget, today's political climate has done more to chase good, reasonable people away from politics than anything else. The bigger insult is the position that they need to pay people of color or the poor to encourage them to run for public office, that it's simply money stopping them for running, not personal decisions, day to day lives, or zero lack of interest in running.
The desire should be to elect the best people who want to serve, not put forward a belief that public service is only worth it if the money is right.