Some public perks defy reasonable explanation

There’s a reason that sometimes people get so upset they can’t speak; a reason that sometimes even reasonable people subscribe to conspiracy theories; a reason people rail against “The System.”

Today’s reason comes courtesy of some Washington school districts that allow school administrators to use taxpayer dollars to buy “personal technology” — ranging from computers to iPods. “Personal” meaning for use at home, not school. That’s correct.

According to news reports, Paul Rosier, executive director of the Washington Association of School Administrators, said the purchases can help superintendents and central office staff keep up with technology and take advantage of equipment like digital camcorders to facilitate training and record student activities. Yes, he gets paid to talk like that.

In school districts that have few restrictions on what the technology money can be used for, purchases like big screen TVs and home theater equipment are becoming more common, a Seattle Times investigation found.

Top managers and supervisors in the Northshore School District are allowed to spend $1,800 over three years to buy “personal technology” for home use and be reimbursed with district money, the paper reported. The purchases do not have to be job-related and prior approval isn’t required. Gosh, how dandy for them. So dandy it’s ridiculous. Not so great for the taxpayers who will pick up the tab.

All but 13 of the eligible 93 Northshore administrators have taken advantage of the benefit under the current contract, which runs through June 2009, spending $119,000 to date. Some of the money was used to buy big-screen TVs, camcorders, home-theater equipment and iPods. If the employees leave, they get to keep the equipment.

Just to reiterate: This program is for administrators. We all know teachers who have spent their own money for classroom supplies. This is not trying to rectify that. This is free electronic equipment for professionals who already make a really good salary.

This news comes at a time that the Northshore School District is trying to trim, oh, $3.4 million from its 2008-09 budget. Of course the technology money isn’t even a drop in the bucket when trying to trim $3.4 million from a budget. It’s not the amount — it’s the principle. Allowing well-paid school administrators to buy electronic goodies for personal use with any amount of taxpayer money is an appalling lesson.

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