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Letters to the Editor: The watchdog keeping an eye on public school pay when the state isn’t

A teacher sits at a classroom in front of a computer
Gladys Alvarez, a fifth-grade teacher at Manchester Avenue Elementary School in South Los Angeles, talks to her virtually in August 2020.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Yes, transparency in public employee salaries is important, as The Times Editorial Board says. At Transparent California, we have lived that every day starting in 2011. Times reporters quote us frequently, so I am not sure why no mention was made of our work on disclosing public employee salaries.

With 27 million compensation and 13 million pension records online, our collection is far more extensive than the state’s. In 2019, our motley crew of mostly volunteers surviving on coffee and cold pizza obtained almost twice as many records as the state controller’s office. We collect and publish data on more than 1 million school district employees every year.

You highlight an article exposing the compensation of the Ontario-Montclair superintendent. That was a direct result of our data collection efforts. We work with reporters all the time.

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The growth of public employee pay and benefits (at rates multiples of inflation) is driving financial distress in many school districts. Knowing where the money is going is critical in making educated voting decisions.

You’re right, it should be a requirement that schools report to the state. But until that happens, there is transparentcalifornia.com.

Todd Maddison, Oceanside

The writer is the research director at Transparent California.

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To the editor: As a retired public school administrator whose son is currently a public school teacher, I find the editorial on public school salaries off base on two counts.

First, while I agree that school districts should be held to account for (not) reporting salaries to the state controller, the information is indeed routinely made public, including by the districts you fault for silence on the issue. On transparentcalifornia.com, my son’s salary and benefits are disclosed each year from 2008-20.

Second, school districts are locally controlled by elected school boards. Salaries and benefits for nearly all school district employees are negotiated between the boards and unions, of which there are typically two or more representing various categories of personnel. The superintendent’s compensation package is the one free of union influence.

Your editorial could leave some readers with the impression that state school finance policy has significant influence over school district salaries and benefits. That is not the case under local control.

Linda Wing, Richmond, Calif.


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