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Wasted salaries?

In Oklahoma, winning a wastebasket with Monopoly money taped to it isn't cause for celebration. That's the prize state Rep. Russ Roach presented to the state's school superintendents as the winners--that means targets--of his first "Waste Busters" award.

Oklahoma's 548 districts paid $32 million in salaries to superintendents last year, the Tulsa Democrat said at a recent press conference.

Superintendents of the state's largest districts--including Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Edmond, and Putnam City--are paid more than Gov. Frank Keating and the state's two top jurists, who earn $101,140 annually, he said.

But the schools chiefs' statewide average paycheck of about $60,000 would hardly elicit envy elsewhere. Superintendents nationally earned an average of $98,106 last year, according to the Arlington, Va.-based Educational Research Service, which surveys administrators' salaries annually. Superintendents in districts of 25,000 students or more earned an average of $121,172, while the earnings of several major-city schools chiefs exceeded $200,000.

Marvin Crawford, the superintendent of the 40,000-student Oklahoma City schools, said his $126,600 salary is set by the marketplace. "We do earn our salary," he said.

Courting criticism

Chief Justice Deborah T. Poritz of the New Jersey Supreme Court has created quite a stir by joining the seven-member bench on a school finance case now before the court.

What's the big deal?

Ms. Poritz was New Jersey's attorney general before she was appointed to the high court in 1996 by Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. As attorney general, Ms. Poritz helped write the same Republican governor's school finance law that is currently being challenged.

Ms. Poritz had stepped down from the case last year, when the court ruled that Mrs. Whitman's plan fell some $250 million short of meeting the educational needs in the state's 28 poorest districts.

"I believe the chief justice is dead wrong to change her position and to vote now," said Senate Minority Leader Richard J. Codey, a Democrat.

In a statement last month, Ms. Poritz explained that the court is no longer dealing with the specific areas she had worked on.

The Newark-based Education Law Center, which is seeking to overturn the plan, said that they will not oppose her decision.


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