Superintendents who complained about education funding get hefty salaries

UNIVERSITY PLACE -- Pierce County mom Kelsey Wilbert has a first-grader and, like most parents, works hard to provide for her child.

“I work my butt off trying to make ends meet.  My mom does, and I’m sure everyone in this neighborhood does,” said Wilbert.

University Place and Franklin-Pierce district school Superintendents Patti Banks and Frank Hewins wrote a recent editorial in the Tacoma News Tribune in which they argued they aren't getting enough tax dollars from their “property poor” communities compared with richer districts such as Seattle, which have more commercial industry that garners more tax money.

“It’s really like the greedy uncle who’s been giving three helpings and is complaining he hasn’t gotten enough stuffing,” Liv Finne, director of the education center for the Seattle-based Washington Policy Center, an independent, non-profit research and educational organization, said in response to the editorial. “I was struck by the fact that so much had been left out of that column about the actual money the school districts are receiving and how really ungrateful they appeared.”

In the 2013 legislative session, the state handed out $15.2 billion to districts across the state for the 2013-15 school year, the single largest increase in funding for schools in state history.  University Place received an additional $2.1 million and Franklin-Pierce, $4.2 million.

“We have students that are not getting the resources to be competitive in the 21st century,” said state Schools Superintendent Randy Dorn.

Dorn agrees with the argument that the Pierce County district leaders are making, that, historically, more burden has been placed on the taxpayers over the years, and that the Legislature must do a better job funding education, as argued in the state Supreme Court's McCleary decision.

“The 'haves' that have big tax levies are probably doing a pretty good job," Dorn said, "but the 'have nots', it’s not even coming close.”

Some feel school superintendents themselves are making too much money.

Q13 FOX  News asked to speak with the University Place and Franklin-Pierce school superintendents on camera but were told they were both out of the office

Here is a link with a list of all of the reported Superintendents’ salaries in the state.

**UPDATE** Since the original airing of this report, Q13 FOX News has learned that at least one District reported elements to the Office of State Public Instruction that should not have been reported as salary. Highline School District says they reported their Superintendent's salary, plus other compensation and the full benefits package and not just the base salary alone which inflated the total base salary figure represented in the State report. Since our original story aired, we have learned that there is the potential that each district could report different compensation elements and as such, the figures represented in the state report could vary. Q13FOX takes the accuracy of our reports very seriously and as such, is issuing this point of clarification on how the information should be interpreted. Additionally, this potentially erroneous method of salary reporting led to a misleading comparison of Superintendent salaries in our original report. We regret that mis-characterization.