At a time when President George W. Bush is calling on all Americans to commit themselves to two years of volunteer work in the service of their community, the eagerness with which some school boards are embracing a measure that would raise members' pay for attending meetings is disappointing to say the least.
We are particularly troubled by the Youngstown Board of Education, which not only expects the highest rate of compensation available but also expects to be paid for every meeting it calls. Last year, the board called 33 meetings. Similarly, Austintown held 17 meetings last year and paid board members for each.
Greed: While we don't believe it's realistic for all school board members to emulate the Poland Board of Education, whose members traditionally turn their pay back to the school district, we do think that taking pay for more than one meeting a month is greedy.
And not all of them do. Last year, the Howland, Warren and East Liverpool school boards each held 22 or more meetings, but board members were only compensated for 12 of those meetings.
If board members are unable to see that volunteer service, like virtue, is its own reward, perhaps they can understand that the power and prestige they receive offsets the pay they would receive when they call more than one meeting in a month.
If the measure (Senate Bill 187) sponsored by Sen. Scott Nein, R-Middletown, passes, the statutory limits on board member compensation would be increased from the current maximum rate of $80 to $125 per meeting. The bill also would allow board members to receive compensation for attending training sessions.
In other words, if the Youngstown board holds 33 meetings in 2002, each board member in attendance would receive $4,125. Multiplied by the seven board members, that's $28,875 pulled from the budget of one of the most troubled districts in the state. In Austintown, another 17-meeting year could yield $2,125 for each board member.
In supporting the 56 percent increase in board members' pay, state Sen. Tim Ryan of Warren, D-32nd, a co-sponsor of the legislation, said, "It's a full-time job really, and a lot of these people really do it as a labor of love. We just think they ought to be compensated."
Ryan needs to consider more carefully whether school board service is, in fact, a job or if it is, rather, a labor of love. It can't be both.
In a well run school district, the role of the board of education is to set policy, School superintendents and treasurers are hired for the full-time work it takes to run their districts.
If the legislature does pass the compensation bill, we would urge school board members to rein in the pecuniary urges. Just because they are empowered to raise their pay, doesn't mean they must.