News-Star: Opinion

School board reveals its spending priorities

One could write a book about the $520,000 pension boost Johnston County taxpayers will give retiring superintendent Ed Croom. Consider this Chapter 1.

Every year at budget time, Johnston school leaders remind us that they would like to raise teacher supplements, among other spending, but cannot because County Commissioners never give them enough money to do so.

We have always thought this argument bogus, and with their $520,000 pension bonus for the retiring superintendent, school leaders are making our case.

Which is to say County Commissioners give Johnston schools more than $50 million a year – with no strings attached. It’s the school board that sets priorities for how to spend that money.

Put another way, we’re sure no one on the County Board of Commissioners ordered school leaders to give Dr. Croom a $520,000 pension boost at taxpayer expense. So it is school leaders who are making that pension bonus a spending priority,

We’re sure County Commissioners would rather school leaders spend $520,000 on anything but a pension hike for a retiring employee. Classroom supplies would be good, so teachers, for one year at least, wouldn’t have to send home that beginning-of-the-year list that asks for everything from glue sticks to facial tissue. Signing bonuses for hard-to-find teachers would be good too. Schools in Johnston County and elsewhere struggle to land math and science teachers and teachers of exceptional children. Again, for a year or two or three, $520,000 for signing bonuses would make that task easier. Or how about $520,000 for library books, textbooks, Chromebooks or tablet computers?

Any way, you get the point. Given a number of productive ways to spend $520,000, ways that could benefit children, Johnston school leaders are choosing instead to spend that money on a retiree’s pension. In other words, their idea of a sound investment in education is to give Dr. Croom $520,000 not to work for the Johnston County schools.

Yes, that is as absurd as it sounds.

So the next time school leaders tell you they can’t make Johnston schools better because County Commissioners won’t let them, feel free to call them out. We haven’t heard the first school board member say he or she is willing to renege on the pension obligation to Croom now that Johnston taxpayers will bear the cost. Instead, school leaders want to hire a lawyer, with your money, to fight the anti-spiking law. So now you know where their spending priorities lie, which is a good thing to know come election time.