L.A. school board salaries more than double to $125,000 a year

There’s one thing that past and current Los Angeles school board members seem to agree on: They’ve been underpaid.

Members of an obscure city commission agreed, and on Monday they voted to give L.A. Board of Education members a 174% raise that will take effect in 60 days. Board members who have no other outside employment will see their pay increase to $125,000 a year from $45,637. Board members who receive any salary or honorarium elsewhere will receive $50,000 a year, compared with the old figure of $26,437.

Under the city charter, Board of Education compensation is set every five years by the LAUSD Board of Education Compensation Review Committee. The seven-member body is appointed by local officials outside the Los Angeles Unified School District. Mayor Eric Garcetti has two appointees, as does City Council President Herb Wesson.

“It’s very obvious how much hard work the school board members put in day in and day out,” said Efren Martinez, a commission member appointed by southeast L.A. County cities served by L.A. Unified.

L.A. City Council members receive $191,000 a year. And, noted Martinez, a typical board district is twice the size of a City Council district, so even with the raises, city elected officials will earn considerably more.

But $125,000 a year, he said, is “a good starting point,” Martinez said.

The most recent compensation levels were set in 2007. At the time, the idea was that board members should earn the same wage as the average first-year teacher.

For comparison, a first-year teacher currently earns at least $50,368. The average teacher salary is $75,350. The range for a principal’s salary is $83,000 to $138,000. L.A. schools Supt. Michelle King receives $350,000 a year. A board member’s chief of staff can earn up to $119,000 a year.

In 2012, the committee, with different members, reconvened and made no changes to the salaries.

Part of the problem for school board members was bad timing.

In 2007, a debate raged over the proper role of a school board member. Influential civic leaders likened the job to that of a corporate board of directors, which would meet occasionally, establish policy and hire and fire the chief executive. Critics did not want a board to micromanage or act like the school equivalent of a city council.

But no board member ever won an election with a campaign promise of: Vote for me and I’ll work less than my opponent. And constituents expected board members to involve themselves with problems at schools in areas they represented. For most board members, the workload has been heavy.

The board got no raise in 2012 in part because of a bad economy. Giving board members a huge pay boost in traumatic financial times seemed off pitch.

But the tide turned Monday, after appeals by current board member George McKenna (at an earlier meeting of the commission), Monica Ratliff (who just left the board) and Yolie Flores (who left the board in 2011).

Flores urged the board to make the pay equal to that of City Council members, but commission members found that leap too great.

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UPDATES:

8:59 p.m.: This article was updated with new quotations and additional background information.

10:57 p.m.: This article was updated to clarify the range of starting teacher salaries.

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