By Rita Robinson | LB Indy
In an effort to promote financial transparency, total wages of all employees of Laguna Beach’s public schools will be posted online by early May.
State Controller John Chiang’s office sent out a letter last month requesting all public schools to submit wages, including benefits, of every employee for public disclosure on the state controller’s website. The information is listed by job title only and will not include the employee’s name.
School districts are among the last public employee groups statewide to comply with similar salary transparency requirements.
Any state-supported district, including charter schools, community college districts and the state university system, that fails to submit the information will be labeled as “noncompliant,” Chiang’s office said.
Salaries for Laguna Beach school’s 300 employees will be submitted by May 5, the controller’s 90-day deadline, said Lisa Winston, the school district’s human resources director. Pay will reflect recently negotiated employee contract agreements that show a 4.5 percent increase for teachers, already approved, and nonteaching staff, which is expected to be finalized by March 25. Winston said the district has provided compensation information in the past at the request of local newspapers.
On the controller’s website, a search is available for “highest paid” positions in the state. Data can also be copied to create customized reports and allows anyone with a computer to easily access the data, rather than needing to file a public record request.
Laguna Beach school district administrators have drawn criticism in recent years from some parents for lacking transparency on several issues. In an attempt to answer complaints, administrators started a call-out system of emails to parents, notifying them about district meetings, events and procedures. Superintendent Sherine Smith did not return phone calls seeking comment on the issue earlier this week.
“For the administration, who have job specifics, their salaries should be known,” said Sheri Morgan, one of the district’s watchdog parents. “When they’re bringing consultants in, it would be important to know if that’s something truly out of their scope or if they’re just trying to pass the buck.”
Known as a basic aid district, Laguna Beach public schools are predominantly funded by residential property taxes, specifically contributing $40 million to the district’s current $42.3 million budget. That revenue allows the district to spend more than $13,000 on every student each school year, according to EdSource, the state education department’s data guide. In public schools more reliant on state funding based on average daily attendance, about $8,500 is spent per student each year.
Linda Barker, president of Laguna’s teachers’ union said she has no qualms with the request to post salaries. “We’re public employees. It can be posted,” she said. Margaret Warder, president of the union for the nonteaching staff, agrees. “I don’t see why that’s a problem if the state wants to know that information; it’s already been public information in the newspapers annually and should be public information,” she said.
Chiang said disclosing school salary information is another step towards government transparency in the aftermath of the 2010 salary scandal in the city of Bell. Pay of public officials is public information, but Bell officials avoided public disclosure of their exceptionally high salaries and the former city manager pleaded guilty to providing fake documents about earnings.
Chiang’s request was mailed to 58 county offices of education, 949 school districts and 992 charter schools. Salaries and benefits of city, county and state employees as well as those working for special districts and the 23 state university campuses are already posted. K-12 districts were the last government educational agencies to be solicited to participate.
“By providing objective, uniform data, we can have an informed citizenry that meaningfully engages in community decision-making,” Chiang wrote.
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