Not enough money for school bus fuel?
Times are tough in Horry County. Parents are worried that public schools will be hit hard by the budget crisis.
Jim Rex, the state’s superintendent, has warned of possible job cuts for teachers or a shortened school week to save bus fuel.
Horry’s own Superintendent, Cynthia Elsberry, has talked about the need to “do less with more.”
Now lawmakers are meeting in Columbia to determine just how much state funding needs to be tightened.
Long time Horry school board member Ronald Bessant wants targeted cuts. He explained: “we don’t hurt any of the areas where we’ve had or where we need student success.”
But some parents are skeptical about educators crying wolf. They wonder if the problem is one of spending priorities.
According to the state legislature’s FY 2008-09 budget, Horry County schools received $12,811 per child in combined local, state and federal funding for this school year.
A look at the Budget and Control Board’s analysis of district spending shows that just a fraction of that $12,811 will reach the classroom. Just 40 cents per dollar is allocated for “instruction,” the rest of the money is spent on administration, debt service, facilities, and “other” expenses.
One obvious source of frustration for parents and teachers is the disproportionally high salary of Horry Superintendent Cynthia Elsberry.
Superintendent Elsberry’s generous compensation package includes:
- $205,000.00 base salary
- Family wide coverage of medical, dental and disability insurance
- Choice of tax sheltered annuities
- $100,000.00 in term life insurance
- Minimum $850 per month in-District travel reimbursement and limitless out-of-District travel
- Golden parachute: if fired for any reason Elsberry receives full payment for the rest of the school year
In contrast to $205,000.00 made by Elsberry, the median family income in Horry is just $42,676 -or one fifth of Elsberry’s take home before her generous benefits.
Similarly, the District reports that its average teacher salary is $46,494, just over one-fith of Elsberry’s.
Perhaps most shocking to parents in Horry is how Elsberry’s compensation compares with her superior, State Superintendent Jim Rex.
Rex earns $92,007 according to the State salary database. While Rex is paid more than twice the average public school classroom teacher, he still makes less than half of Elsberry’s pay, and is responsible for all public schools in the state.
Also frustrating for parents in the district, the Horry School Board is still unwilling to release details of how Elsberry was selected for the Superintendent’s position earlier this year, and what factors were considered in determining her enormously high salary.
If school budgets in Horry are as tight as parents have been led to believe, Dr. Elsberry should demonstrate fiscal leadership by forgoing a portion of her own salary before curtailing spending on classroom instruction or student transportation.