PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - Many teachers who work in Palm Beach County public schools said they’re struggling to make ends meet and are worried they could soon be laid off.
But as the Contact 5 Investigators have learned, some of the top educators and administrators aren’t hurting at all. In fact, they’re making well above the state average and are earning more than their peers at even some larger school systems in the state.
The school district is facing the worst budget crisis it has ever been through.
School leaders have proposed cutting everything from school safety officers to reducing the times they cut the grass to slash $35 million in expenses.
But one place the district is spending big bucks is on the salaries of top educators and administrators.
The Contact 5 Investigators got access to the salaries of every public school employee in Palm Beach County school system through public records from the Florida Retirement System.
After crunching the numbers, our findings certainly surprised a lot of teachers. The information shows the district had at least 124 people who made more than $100,000 last school year.
Those 124 big salaries ranged from $100,000 to more than $200,000 last school year. The jobs ranged from principals, to the facilities director to the human resources chief.
Plus, compared with salaries compiled by the Florida Department of Education, most of the people in those positions are making well above the state average.
In the classroom the average county teacher makes $48,000 a year.
Ellen Baker, an English teacher at William Dwyer High School, said she’s making even less than that with a decade of experience.
"It's upsetting, I mean I'll never make that much money,” said Baker.
Not only does the school district have a lot of people making a sizeable amount of money, it’s more than triple the number when compared to districts that have even more students than Palm Beach County.
For example, the information shows Hillsborough County has about 20,000 more students, but only 38 workers making more than a $100,000 a year. And in Orange County, also with more students, the number’s only twenty six.
The head of the public affairs office for the Palm Beach County School District, who’s also on the 100K plus salary list, said the high numbers are partly due to the high cost of living in Palm Beach County, the employee’s experience and years of built in salary increases.
“Where it is, is based upon us needing to attract the best people, not overpaying certainly but making sure we're competitive and the talent doesn't go someplace else,” said Nat Harrington.
Tell that to the teachers who spend their time in the classroom. They said it’s not their salaries that attracted them to the profession, but the students.
"I don't really understand it, I think it's backwards,” said Baker.
The district said in addition to pay freezes that are already in effect, it will be going line by line in the days and months ahead, looking for more ways to cut down on costs.
It’s now something the head of the teacher’s union said she’ll be looking into as well.
A district spokesperson told the Contact 5 Investigators that a few people have been promoted on the list over the past few months and that their old positions will not be filled. They said it has saved them a few hundred thousand dollars.
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