The number of Florida school employees earning $100,000 or more jumped 818 percent from 2005 to 2010, a new report shows.
By contrast, the ranks of private- and public-sector workers making $100,000-plus inched up only 7 percent during the same period, according to the Foundation for Government Accountability.
In 2005, just 103 of Florida's public-education employees earned $100,000 or more. By 2010, that number had swelled to 946, the FGA said.
You dont have to be great in math to figure out that something is wrong with these school salaries," said Tarren Bragdon, CEO of the Naples-based fiscal watchdog.
"During these five years, you have flat student enrollment, the biggest recession since the Great Depression and skyrocketing six-figure salaries -- that adds up to a raw deal for Florida parents and taxpayers.
The state's total payroll for K-12 schools has climbed steadily to nearly $10 billion. Outstripping enrollment growth, it's now more than double the $4.2 billion of 1997 (in inflation-adjusted dollars).
In 1997, only two school employees hit the $100,000 mark, FGA found. Eight years later, the six-figure club had grown to 103. By 2010, it hit 946, and last year it climbed to 1,215. (No private-sector comparisons were available for 2011.)
Miami-Dade, Duval, Hillsborough and Brevard county school districts combined for five employees topping $200,000, with Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho heading the list at $285,576.
Charter schools -- publicly funded campuses operated by local or private organizations -- were also represented on the FGA roster. Bobby Haag, of the Charter School of Excellence Inc., in Broward County, came in at $186,586.
Ironically, the sharp and steady rise of $100,000-plus school employees comes amid continued complaints of inadequate funding. Even as Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature held the line on school spending last year, the number of six-figure school workers jumped an additional 28.4 percent.
Scott has pledged to increase K-12 funding by $1 billion this year.
"On that I will not budge," the governor vowed in his State of the State address last week.
If anything, the FGA report understates the number of six-figure staffers in Florida's public-education system.
A Sunshine State News review of the FGA study found, for instance, that the superintendent of the St. Lucie County School District was not included in the statistics. The district pegged Mike Lannon's compensation at $191,651 in 2010.
Bragdon explained that employees in certain pension plans would not show up in the data his organization obtained from the state Department of Management Services.
"The names and salaries from our public records request did not include positions," Bragdon said.
But FGA's report pointed to a widening pay gap between highly compensated administrators and rank-and-file education staff.
As 33.5 percent more school employees entered the $100,000 club in the past two years, the average education salary dropped from $37,900 to $36,400 (inflation adjusted). The average salary in 1997 was $30,000.
Florida's classroom teachers -- whose average pay is $46,708, according to the National Education Association -- are outnumbered by administrators and support staff statewide. While principal salary scales exceed $100,000 in larger districts, veteran instructors make barely more than half that in the classroom.
The NEA ranks Florida's average teacher pay at 47th in the country.
Patricia Sullivan, head of the Tea Party Network, a statewide coalition of 80 tea and patriot groups, observed, "It appears the servant is now the master, and the children get the crumbs."
Decrying the increasingly bureaucratic structure of education, layered with federal mandates that push up administrative overhead, Sullivan said, "Uncle Sam's plantation is growing and we need to challenge our state legislators to address this injustice. Taxpayers should be outraged."
FGA also compared the 818 percent increase in six-figure education employees with that of other public-sector workers. From 2005-2010, the number of county employees earning $100,000-plus rose by 283 percent (1,158 to 4,437). The corresponding number of state employees gained 32 percent (2,181 to 2,871).
Salary reports can be viewed at the FGA website, FloridaOpenGov.org, which Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater praised for providing "taxpayers with the tools to keep tabs on how their dollars are being spent."
The state Department of Education did not respond to Sunshine State News' request for comment. The Florida Education Association was not available.
Contact Kenric Ward at email@example.com or at (772) 801-5341.