MONTEBELLO, Calif. – In 2012, California voters approved a massive tax hike to support public schools.
Taxes were increased 10.3 percent on those making between $250,000 and $300,000, 11.3 percent on incomes between $300,000 and $500,000, 12.3 percent on incomes between $500,000 and $1 million, and 13.3 percent on incomes above $1 million.
Eighty-nine percent of the resulting revenue – estimated between $6.8 and $9 billion – was earmarked for public K-12 schools.
School boards were given broad discretion on how to spend their share of the money.
Most state residents probably assumed that the dollars would equal better schools for students.
Unfortunately that hasn’t always been the case.
Some California districts have spent a lot of money on generous compensation packages for administrators and teachers, but their students continue to struggle academically.
Take the Montebello, California district, for instance.
In 2013-14 a total of 997 employees made at least $100,000 in total compensation, costing the district $116.7 million. Of that amount, $95.6 million was base salary and $18.2 million was paid out in benefits.
The top five earners were the top administrators in the district – two superintendents, a deputy superintendent and two assistant superintendents.
The superintendent position alone ate up a great deal of money. The first, Cleve Pell, was paid $260,238 in salary plus benefits, while his replacement, Susanna Contreras Smith, was paid $251,698. That means the Montebello district paid out well over half a million dollars for its superintendent in one year.
In a lot of districts, that would be enough money to pay the superintendent for two or three years.
In third place on the salary chart was Deputy Superintendent Arthur Revueltas at $234,788. Fourth place went to Assistant Superintendent Cheryl Plotkin ($214,206), in fifth place was Assistant Superintendent Jill Rojas ($213,368).
The five of them were compensated a combined $1.17 million. Nice.
With highly-paid administrators running the district, residents should feel confident that students are going to learn and excel in the classroom.
But that doesn’t seem to be the case.
On a recent district report card, based on testing for grades 3-8 and 11, the Montebello district came up short across the board.
The percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations fell far short of the state average in all 16 categories of English language/literacy and math. The percentage of difference between the district and the state was double-digits in every category.
The worst example was in English language/literacy for all students taking the test. Only 29 percent of Montebello students met or exceeded expectations, compared to an average of 54 percent statewide. That’s a gap of 25 percent.
The difference was 19 percent in two categories and 18 percent in four others.
Clearly the massive tax hike that forced so many residents to cough up so much has not made much of a difference at some California schools, except for highly-paid employees who are doing very well.