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March 10, 2020 8 min read

data for racial and ethnic groups. African American superintendents overall earned a median base salary of $189,000, and Latino superintendents reported earning $180,000, both higher than the $140,000 salary of white superintendents. Asian American superintendents reported a median salary of $221,760.

As Yogi Berra famously said: “It’s déjà vu all over again.

That’s what happened to Aileen Rizo, who was hired in 2009 by the Fresno County, Calif., office of education for the staff position of math consultant.

She’d been earning $52,000 as a math teacher in Arizona before accepting the Fresno County job at a salary of $62,133, court papers say. Later, she learned her male colleagues had been hired at much higher salaries: one at $73,832 and another at $79,088. Still, a woman had been hired for the same job at $76,414.

Her employer’s rationale: All salaries had been set in accordance with standard operating procedure based primarily on the employee’s most recent prior salary, not on gender.

The court sided with Rizo in 2018—11 days after one of the appellate judges issuing the decision had died. Subsequently, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the decision. “Federal judges are appointed for life, not eternity,” the high court pointed out.

Back went the case to the appellate court, which again ruled that an employer does not have a valid defense against alleged sex discrimination under the Equal Pay Act of 1963 if it bases a worker’s starting salary entirely on her prior pay.

“Setting wages based on prior pay risks perpetuating the history of sex-based wage discrimination,” said the Feb. 27 opinion for a majority on the 11-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco.

The new opinion, as did the previous one, has a narrow majority of six judges holding that prior pay may never be the basis for the “any other factor” defense. As one of the concurring judges, who nonetheless disagreed with the majority’s rationale, noted, a standard that prior wages may never be considered “ignores the realities and dynamic nature of business.”

The opinions in the case suggest that at least five other federal appeals courts have limited the consideration of prior pay as a factor-other-than-sex defense, but the 9th Circuit judges disagreed about the scope of the differences in approach among the other courts.

Want Higher Pay? Go to a Big District

Speaking of salaries, new data are out about school superintendents’ earnings, indicating some hefty differences from 2018 but, of course, not for all.

Median salaries rose last year, moving to a range of between $117,500 in the smallest districts to $388,709 in the larger school systems, according to the AASA, the School Superintendents Association, Superintendent Salary & Benefits Study. In 2018, their median salaries ranged from $100,000 to $234,000.

The new AASA statistics show that as district enrollment has increased, so too have salaries, a trend that has been consistent over the past four years.

No surprise that the data also show race- and gender-related compensation gaps among superintendents, though the study warns not to draw too many conclusions because of smaller numbers of women and racial and ethnic minorities.

Twenty-three percent of survey participants in 2019 were female while roughly 75 percent were male, and the vast majority of participants were white (non-Hispanic or Latino), with other racial and cultural groups making up the remaining 6.2 percent.

Women reported a median salary of $138,125, slightly less than the $141,217 reported by their male counterparts. Even slighter differences in salary showed up when male and female superintendents’ median salaries were compared for districts of relatively the same size.

Apart from 2018, women have usually reported higher minimum overall base salaries than male participants but lower maximum salaries. Female superintendents reported a minimum salary of $78,000 and a maximum of $325,000 last year, while men reported a minimum of $64,250 and maximum of $357,418.

Chris Rogers, an AASA policy analyst, said it’s possible that many female superintendents may have started working in the school system earlier and were more advanced in their overall careers, thus prompting the higher minimum salary.

The 2019 study marks the first year AASA broke out data for racial and ethnic groups. African American superintendents overall earned a median base salary of $189,000, and Latino superintendents reported earning $180,000, both higher than the $140,000 salary of white superintendents. Asian American superintendents reported a median salary of $221,760.

Like the female superintendents, the historically disadvantaged racial groups reported higher minimum base salaries and lower maximum salaries than those given to white superintendents.

GOP Agitator Takes Step Toward Texas School Board Seat

You can always count on the Texas board of education to rile things up. Usually, it’s about curriculum or textbooks. This time around, it’s a board candidate who’s likely to kick up the squabbling.

In last week’s primary elections, Robert Morrow, a Republican agitator who has called President Donald Trump a child rapist and posts risque images of women on social media, advanced to a runoff for a seat on the board.

Morrow has long been a thorn for Texas Republicans. He’ll face either Lani Popp, a San Antonio-area public school speech pathologist, or Inga Cotton, who heads a nonprofit that supports families choosing charter schools, in the May runoff for the central Texas district that stretches from Austin to San Antonio.

The 15-member board helps set policy and curriculum for the state’s public school system. The board has drawn national attention over its debates on issues including the teaching of evolution and creationism and the history of slavery.

Morrow embarrassed the GOP in 2016 when he was elected chairman of the party in Travis County, home of the state Capitol where Republicans have dominated Texas politics for two decades. He was forced to give up that position a few months later when he filed to run for president.

“We will vigorously oppose him in the runoff and work to educate Republican voters about his vulgar, slanderous, and reprehensible comments over the years,” said Matt Mackowiak, the chairman of the Travis County Republican Party.

Morrow’s top campaign issue is to “impeach, convict, and remove Donald Trump” and throw him in prison. As election returns came in on Super Tuesday, Morrow tweeted, “Woo hoo! Lyndon Johnson murdered JFK. Trump is a child rapist!”

Here’s what he cited as his goals in the League of Women Voters guide: eliminate a major source of public school funding, offer high school students elective classes on the safe use of assault rifles, and give senior girls classes on pole dancing and twerking.

Another Court Rejects Bids to Get Union Fees Refunded Retroactively

Stopping teachers’ unions from collecting agency fees from nonmembers these days apparently isn’t good enough. Now, opponents want to kick the unions while they’re already down by getting them to reimburse those fees retroactively.

So far, though, the courts are having none of it. A federal appeals court late last month upheld the dismissal of a class action brought on behalf of Ohio teachers who declined to join their union and sought the refund of years of fees the unions were allowed to charge them for collective bargaining. That ruling marks the third by a federal appeals court, as well as more than a dozen by federal district courts that rejected refunds of agency fees collected before the Supreme Court’s 2018 so-called Janus ruling. The high court found that nonmembers could not be compelled under the First Amendment to help fund organizations with which they disagreed.

Up until Janus, the courts say the unions collected the fees in “good faith.”

Not to worry. Strategists have other ideas up their sleeves to attack the unions. Challenges are afoot, for instance, to the right of a single public-employee union to be the exclusive bargaining representative for a defined group of workers.

Maine Voters Have Spoken: End Vaccination Exemptions

While the rest of the nation watched how the Bernie-Biden contest shaped up on Super Tuesday, what happened in Maine may have gone largely unnoticed outside its borders.

With the backdrop of the coronavirus spreading around the world—along with confirmed cases of COVID-19 in neighboring New Hampshire and Rhode Island—Mainers last week voted to keep a state law that restricts exemptions on childhood vaccinations.

Every major medical organization in the state supported the 2019 law that eliminates religious and philosophical exemptions at a time when more parents are forgoing vaccines for their children. Groups seeking to restore the exemptions contended that parents, not lawmakers, should be responsible for making medical decisions for children.

The defeated People’s Veto referendum aimed to undo the law that ends nonmedical vaccine opt-outs by September 2021 for students at public and private schools and universities, including nursery schools, and for health-care-facility employees. The law was part of a trend in which states tightened rules on vaccine exemptions in response to growing numbers of unvaccinated children.

Cara Sacks, the campaign manager for the effort to overturn the law, told supporters she didn’t think the vote reflected the true view of Mainers, suggesting they wouldn’t willingly hand over their medical rights “to an untrustworthy government.” She told the group: “It’s not over. It will never be over.”

Perhaps so. But it was unclear if the presence of the coronavirus knocking at Maine’s door had any impact on voters.

Briefly Stated contributors: Associated Press, Mark Walsh, and Gabrielle Wanneh. Edited by Karen Diegmueller.
A version of this article appeared in the March 11, 2020 edition of Education Week as Briefly Stated