Scofflaw School Districts Resisted Sharing Pay Details With State Controller

They are some of the largest and most prestigious public school districts in the county — and, indeed, in the entire state of California.

But just try to figure out how much their workers actually make.

Six of Orange County’s K-12 districts (there are 28) have not sent detailed pay data to the state controller’s office for its easy-access, apples-to-apples publicpay.ca.gov database, as they were asked to do back in … drum roll please … 2014.

The holdouts were the esteemed Irvine Unified, Saddleback Valley Unified, Orange Unified, La Habra City, Westminster and Lowell Joint school districts. Two more — Anaheim Elementary and Huntington Beach City — were also missing from the 2020 database.

We asked why.

Irvine Unified “continues to provide the public information about district salaries through the Orange County Department of Education, Transparent California and on IUSD’s website,” said spokeswoman Annie Brown.

Good luck trying to decipher anything meaningful out of the mind-numbing salary schedules listed on the official sites! And kudos to Transparent California — a private organization that arduously maintains a public pay database via a gazillion public records requests — but then, why not give the controller’s office what it asked for eight years ago, so all school districts could be easily compared side-by-side on an official, public site?

“In the interest of further transparency, (Irvine Unified) is also in the process of working on the technology to provide data to the State Controller’s voluntary system, which has specific reporting and formatting requirements that do not always align with individual school district systems,” Brown said.

Eight years, hopefully, has been enough to accomplish that. A bill is pending in the Legislature would make K-12 reporting to the controller’s centralized database mandatory.

Saddleback Valley’s Robert Craven, assistant superintendent of business services, said his district has been working to complete its data file for the controller and it should be uploaded by the time this story publishes (though it will take the controller’s office time to compile and publish the data for all the districts).

Huntington Beach City School District’s spokeswoman said it has provided data to the controller every year except last year, due to staff transitions in the administrative department. This year’s report has been successfully submitted.

Anaheim Elementary said that it has submitted data each year, but a glitch apparently kept it out of the controller’s most recent update. It’s working to fix that.

The other districts didn’t respond to requests for explanation, but, shortly after the controller asked for this data back in 2014, a teacher’s union rep told us that the request was insulting, intrusive and sends the message that teachers are overpaid.

“I don’t see anything to gain by people knowing if a teacher is on the top of the salary scale or a beginning teacher,” the union rep said. “If that person is a good teacher, what difference does it make? We don’t go to the dentist and say, ‘Can I see how much you make? Can I see your W2 before you open your mouth?’ “

We’ll note here that it’s administrators, not teachers, who seem to require the closest supervision.

Sobering factoid: O.C. districts have been far better at reporting pay data than have others across California. In O.C., only 28 % failed to submit the data last year. Statewide, it was an outrageous 74%.

Sunlight

The controller’s reporting allows us Public Citizen types to see how much each worker really, truly costs — by including not only the (often-modest) base pay public workers get, which you see in those nebulous salary schedules districts post — but everything else as well.

Overtime. Incentive pay. Deferred compensation. Vacation time cash-outs. How much each employee’s health and retirement benefits cost. Whether public agencies pick up the worker’s share of pension contributions as well as their own. And which pension formula applies to each and every worker.

Why is it important that Regular Citizens have easy access to uniform information?

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

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