School administrators in Oregon can no longer count on lucrative contract buyouts—sometimes nicknamed “golden parachutes”—when they leave their jobs early.
A bill approved by the legislature last month and expected to be signed into law by Democratic Gov. Theodore R. Kulongoski, forbids districts from paying administrators for work they didn’t perform, effectively ending cash exit packages for superintendents. The law also restricts them from buying school property for a year after they leave.
The legislation comes after media reports of six-figure buyout packages for some administrators in Oregon, and one case reported in the Oregon Statesman Journal newspaper in which a school administrator bought his district-issued Honda Pilot luxury sport utility vehicle for $7,900 when it was valued at more than $26,000.
“This is a public relations nightmare when you are buying out administrators with money they never earned,” said state Sen. Vicki L. Walker, a Democrat and the chairwoman of her chamber’s education committee. She said the bill is part of an effort to bring more fiscal accountability to schools.
The proposal does allow school districts to provide health insurance until the administrator finds a new job or turns 65. The bill applies to school superintendents, assistant superintendents, business managers, and other district administrators.
While legislators in Oregon say the bill sends a message about fiscal accountability, the national school administrators group says it inappropriately meddles in contract negotiations between school boards and their superintendents.
Bruce Hunter, the associate executive director for public policy with the Arlington, Va.-based American Association of School Administrators, said the bill could encourage a school board and a superintendent to stay in a bad relationship, or keep working together because the superintendent can’t get out of the contract.
“That could be more disastrous than a buyout,” Mr. Hunter said.
And, he warned that Oregon school districts, especially the largest ones, may have trouble recruiting administrators from other states because of the restrictions on their contracts.
“One of these days a school district will want a superintendent who won’t come, and they’ll regret this,” he said. “This is an over-reaction, and it has long-term ramifications.”
A version of this article appeared in the June 06, 2007 edition of Education Week