Perks for four Union Public Schools administrators in Oklahoma include full use of district-owned Acura SUVs as part of their benefits package, according to a Tulsa World report.
The paper surveyed Tulsa County school districts because the majority of superintendents did not report auto allowances as part of their compensation packages to the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Of those reported, the average total compensation for 2011-12 amounted to $155,066.
According to the Tulsa World examination, only two superintendents surveyed had no vehicle or travel allowance. Union Associate Superintendent Kirt Hartzler and Chief Financial Officer Debra Jacoby received new 2012 Acura MDX model SUVs in January, at a cost of just over $52,000 and nearly $30,000, respectively.
Superintendent Cathy Burden drives a $45,000 2010 Acura RL sedan bought by the district, and Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Kathy Dodd drives a 2007 Acura MDX purchased for just over $33,000.
Ed Payton, former president of the Union school board, told the paper the board voted to purchase Acuras instead of less expensive alternatives in an effort to attract and retain the best administrators.
“We believe our approach is working. Union school administrators, teachers and support staff are highly respected and recruited throughout the region,” he said.
These vehicles are included in the top district administrators’ benefit packages on the condition that they will be “on the clock around the clock,” according to Burden’s employment contract.
According to a survey published last October, 37 of 46 states surveyed significantly cut K-12 educational funding since the previous year. Oklahoma ranked fifth among the states that cut most per-pupil funding from fiscal year 2008 to fiscal year 2012 — a decrease of 18.7 percent.
This past April, it was reported by News On 6 that school districts statewide would be cutting teachers and programs in an effort to compensate for a smaller education budget in the fall. Outraged parents are demanding the legislature devote available money to education instead of cutting taxes. According to News On 6, it would require an extra $6 million to retain the teachers whose positions have already been eliminated.
A situation mirroring that of Oklahoma arose in Detroit last June, when, following rounds of cutbacks and layoffs amid a $327 million budget deficit, Detroit Public Schools spent $40,000 on a Chevrolet Tahoe that chauffeurs the district's emergency manager Roy Roberts around the city. The expensive purchase came after Roberts told an assembly of parents, teachers and students that DPS must find ways to cut back on unnecessary luxuries.