Is That Too Much?

1 June 2004

The following 392-word article contains previously unpublished information showing just how bloated public education is. It was published by the Arizona Republic on May 26 as a weekly point-counterpoint with a public school teacher. Craig Cantoni and the teacher are debating whether the pay package for the new Scottsdale school superintendent is too high.

More Bang for the Buck in the Phoenix Diocese
by Craig J. Cantoni

The new Scottsdale school superintendent, John Baracy, has the potential to earn just shy of $200,000 under his contract with the district. Is that too much?

This may surprise my face-off friend to my right, but I can’t say that it is too much. I also can’t say that it’s too little or just right, although I have 25 years of experience evaluating jobs and setting executive compensation.

Why can’t I say whether Baracy is paid appropriately?

Because there is not a free market for public school superintendents, due to the government controlling 90 percent of K-12 education. It’s like asking if Politburo members in the former Soviet Union were paid appropriately, or for that matter, if members of the U.S. Congress are paid appropriately.

When superintendent pay is set through a political process instead of a market process, it is subject to the fevers of the day and to political manipulation. The same holds true for teacher pay and per-pupil spending.

Although in economic terms the near-monopoly of public education has ”crowded out” a private market, a remnant of competition can still be found in Catholic schools. The Phoenix diocese has 14,600 students, 28 elementary schools, six high schools and 20 preschools. Yet the diocese superintendent, Mary Beth Mueller, doesn’t even earn half of what Baracy earns.

One of the reasons she doesn’t earn half is that she has not built an empire. Her staff consists of two assistant superintendents and two administrative assistants. To compare, there are over 100 people on the central office staff of the Scottsdale district, which has about twice as many students but fewer schools.

Unlike the Scottsdale superintendent, Mueller doesn’t get paid for propagandizing about declining enrollment and money. The Scottsdale district calls it ”community relations,” but that is a euphemism. Few Catholic parents even know that Mueller exists, and judging by the paucity of coverage in the local media about the efficiency and effectiveness of parochial schools, neither do reporters.

Mueller just does her job quietly and competently without fanfare or controversy. Meanwhile, the Scottsdale superintendent ”earns” over twice as much, has a huge staff to help him and gets plenty of publicity.

I don’t know if Baracy is paid appropriately, but I do know that parochial school parents are getting more bang for the buck than Scottsdale district taxpayers.

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Mr. Cantoni is an author, public speaker and consultant. He can be reached at ccan2@aol.com

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