Contemplating the context of Ackerman's salary

The Daily News follows up on Phil Goldsmith's district-administrators-are-paid-too-much column with two pieces today. First, a story by Dafney Tales making the observation that administrator raises are not the only fiscal change the district is making:

During a budget presentation to the School Reform Commission in May, district officials warned that drastic cuts that will harm students would be made if enough funding from the state didn't come through.

They weren't bluffing.

Almost half of the district's 21 early-childhood centers will close this week and at least 40 nonteaching assistants and other school support staff have been demoted or laid off, according to Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers union.

The cuts, and others in the district, are cost-saving measures that officials said balanced a $3.2 billion budget approved by the SRC in May.

There's also an editorial grappling with the difficult question of how much school administrators should make. The whole thing is worth reading, but especially this point: We shouldn't expect (or want) the city to be cheap about the people who run its schools. But you need to search for some context here, and in every context you consider, Arlene Ackerman and her staff make too much money:

First, the city, the state and the district are struggling against harsh, new economic realities that could lead to the loss of hundreds of thousands of education jobs. Mayor Nutter took a pay cut. The governor himself makes about half what Ackerman makes. Taking these comparisons as appropriate measures of value, how can the head of a district with 200,000 students be more valuable than the head of an entire state of 12 million?

Second, in the last few years, a string of scandals at charter schools, with heads of single schools pulling in salaries in excess of $200,000, suggests a new atmosphere of entitlement, and creates a sickening sense that some people see public-education budgets as a way to get rich. The governor, the School Reform Commission, and the district's management should be hypersensitive to even unwittingly contributing to this image.

But the most disturbing backdrop is the reality of Philadelphia families. The median income in this city is $40,000; median income for families with kids in school is $30,000, with a per capita income of school district families of $16,509. And if you do the math - a $3.2 billion budget divided by 200,000 students - that's almost exactly the figure that the district is spending per pupil.

The editorial ends by making a point that has thus far been missing from this discussion: Where's the SRC, the very people in charge of all this? Would they like to explain themselves?

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