Providence district near top in payroll, bottom in student achievement

Aug 30, 2013 by

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Things are upside-down in Rhode Island’s largest school district.

A new analysis of the Providence School District finds its school leaders are among the highest-paid in the state, even though Providence students languish near the bottom of in academic achievement and graduation rates.

Using a public records request, discovered the district’s 30 highest paid employees “earned a total of $4.5 million in pay and benefits last year and are largely comprised of top administrators and principals.”

That averages out to $150,000 per employee.

“Overall, only about 35 employees have base salaries in the six figures,” reports. “But when the total compensation is considered – including employer health insurance and retirement contributions – 807 employees had a total pay and benefits package of $100,000 or more last year, city records show.”

Part of the problem is that Providence schools have a lot of mid-level administrators between the superintendent and individual school principals.

“Providence spends more on central office administration than most school districts in the state,” and the district’s larger-than-average size “cannot account for its greater expenses,” reports.

The other problem, no doubt, is caused by union contracts that require educators to be given annual, automatic pay raises regardless of how well they’re doing their job. The payroll grows as the students continue to fail and drop out.

The revelation of these eyebrow-raising pay levels comes two years after the Providence district made national headlines when school leaders laid off every one of their 1,926 teachers due to chronic budget problems. The superintendent at the time said the dramatic move was needed in order to give the district “the maximum flexibility to consider every cost-saving option.” (The district re-hired roughly 75
percent of those teachers a few months later.)

Providence leaders are defending their pay practices as the cost of doing business.

“You have to pay for skilled and experienced administrators,” said school board President Keith Oliveira.

Taxpayers might want to question how “skilled” those school leaders actually are.

In 2012, reported the district had “the seven worst high schools in the state,” all with math proficiency rates below 5 percent. Overall, Providence students score well below their Rhode Island peers on the annual state assessments.

Residents aren’t getting much return on all their so-called K-12 investments, according to taxpayer advocate Lisa Blais.

“The public education system has long been viewed as a job factory for adults with the flow of taxpayer dollars having lackluster impact on improving student achievement levels or narrowing the academic gaps prevalent among and between white students, poor students, and students of various ethnic backgrounds,” Blais said.

Providence district near top in payroll, bottom in student achievement – powered by Education Action Group Foundation, Inc..

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