Save Our Schools: Generous CA Superintendent Gives Up Benefits And $830K in Salary To Help Alleviate Cuts
Tomorrow morning, a California school superintendent will retire from his job, only to be rehired later in the day. Why? Fresno County’s superintendent Larry Powell wants to be paid a much lower wage. Leaving behind a $288,241 annual salary, Powell will voluntarily work for $31,020 — $10,000 less than a first-year teacher’s salary — with no benefits. This, Powell says, ensures that the $830,000 he would have earned for the remainder of his term will go toward the county schools’ budget for the next three years.
Characterized as exceedingly humble, Powell — also a Baptist minister — said his motivation for the unconventional move was to do what he can to counter budget cuts to his beleaguered school system:
“My wife and I are very well compensated. We’ve been very blessed,” he told the television station.
“These are tight budget times in California for public schools,” the 63-year-old Fresno County school superintendent said, noting over the past three years, his area has lost $1,600 to $1,900 in funding per student. “My wife and I thought, what can we do that might help change the dynamic in my particular area.”
Watch Powell on ABC News.
“I don’t think of it as being a hero at all,” said Powell. Noting that Fresno county is “like a bar bell” with “extreme wealth and extreme poverty,” he said this “unique arrangement” presented “a perfect opportunity to do something where the public benefits, the taxpayer benefits…the taxpayer saves between $150,000 and $160,000 in reduced costs, the county receives $830,000.”
Because his salary comes out of the district’s discretionary budget, Powell will be able “to steer the money he is giving up where he wants: to programs for kindergarten and preschool, the arts and a pet project that steers B and C students into college by teaching them how to take notes and develop strategy skills.” As ABC’s David Wright notes, Powell’s $830,000 is enough to hire 20 new teachers, fund 16 pre-school classes, or pay for 11 art programs for the entire year.
U.S Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called Powell yesterday to thank him for his generosity. “Larry Powell’s leadership is an absolute inspiration,” he said in a statement.