In a story straight out of the "WTF" category, Buffalo Business First has identified the Niagara Falls School District as having the fifth most generous pay scale for teachers out of 98 school districts across Western New York analyzed. The irony? The same periodical ranked the Niagara Falls School District 91st in academic performance.
91st in performance, 5th in pay. Wonderful.
According to Niagara Gazette reporter Rick Forgione, Falls Superintendent Cynthia Bianco said the district ranks high on the salary list because it employs professionals who are willing to work with at-risk youth, comply with the residency policy and engage in continual job-embedded staff development.
What a crock of shit. We've said it before and we'll say it again: Excuses are like assholes; everybody's got one and they all stink. We want to know two things: 1) That are children are getting the best education that can be offered, and 2) our tax dollars are being used in the most efficient and prudent manner possible. Bianco's rationale delivers neither. Instead, we get rhetoric that does little to ease the concerns of city residents.
What most stands out is Bianco's assertion that they must pay more to teachers who must comply with a strict residency requirement. If you need to pay more to employees as a mechanism for forcing them to reside in your community, your problems are bigger than you realize. In addition, the concept of mandating residency virtually ensures that students do not have the opportunity to be taught by the best teachers out there while at the same time driving costs up for taxpayers. Students lose and taxpayers lose.
Forgione went on to state that, including administrators, Niagara Falls had four employees making $150,000 or more a year. Bianco’s salary was listed at $155,000. In addition, seven employees made between $125,000 and $149,999; and 28 employees earned $100,000 to $124,999. A total of 217 employees made between $75,000 and $99,999 and 358 employees made between $50,000 and $74,999 during the 2009-10 school year.
Spending per pupil in Niagara Falls was listed at $17,119 for the 2008-09 school year. Nearly 29 percent of the district’s budget was devoted to teacher salaries, with an additional 12 percent for health benefits that same academic year. That's 41% of the district's budget being devoted to the compensation of teachers. That figure does not take into consideration the compensation of administrators, so it's probably safe to assume that the percentage goes well over 50% after adding those costs in. Think about that - less than half of every dollar spent on educating students in Niagara Falls actually goes to programs to educate students.
The bottom line is that we, the taxpayers, demand better. School administrators must come to the realization that we cannot and will not continue to subsidize a failed system that rewards incompetency. We certainly will not accept lame excuses for their repeated failures, as in the case of Bianco, while attempting to justify their existence and sickeningly bloated salary and compensation packages. Bianco needs to step up, tell the truth, and present a plan to address both student performance and taxpayer frustration. Otherwise, keep your mouth shut - we don't want to hear it.