I’m not one to get worked up about public employee salaries. I don’t begrudge anybody taking home a good wage. The new Clark County School District superintendent, Dwight Jones, is going to receive $358,000 per year in total compensation. This doesn’t bother me considering that Jones will have responsibility for the nation’s fifth-largest school district, a sprawling monster of an organization. I have a feeling he will earn every penny.
But while Jones’ salary doesn’t faze me, at least one of the fringe benefits — a six-month housing allowance — does.
I’m not naive. I know many top execs around the country receive benefits of this kind. But that doesn’t make it right in this case and especially not at this time.
Nevada’s economy is in terrible shape, the worst in memory. The school district has suffered major budget cuts, with more on the horizon in 2011. Teachers — the most important factors in student success — do not make high salaries here and do not receive housing allowances. Considering the healthy salary that Jones will be receiving, don’t you figure he can find a place to live on his own?
It will be noted, of course, that funding for the housing allowance is to come from private sources — donations raised by the Public Education Foundation. But I have a simple answer to that one: If the Public Education Foundation can come up with $30,000 for the new superintendent’s housing, that money certainly could be better spent in local classrooms.
What we have here, I think, is a classic case of a group of very financially comfortable citizens completely missing the point. It happens. When you live in the secure confines of suburbia, personally unaffected by the ravages of the Great Recession, it’s easy to lose perspective.
For those who’ve lost it, here’s some perspective on Las Vegas: 15 percent unemployment, rampant home foreclosures, thousands of homeless kids in the schools, a $3 billion state budget deficit.
Finally, consider that the housing market is depressed. There are some great deals on houses out there. Seems to me Mr. Jones shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a nice place to live on his own.