The high costs of salary envy
What you don’t know about somebody else’s pay can’t hurt your feelings.
But what local taxpayers do know about Charleston County School District Superintendent Nancy McGinley’s salary stirs hard feelings.
Though it wasn’t a secret before Sunday’s Post and Courier, our front-page reminder that McGinley is making $223,022 a year — and that four other district higher-ups are making $140,000 or more — riled up many readers.
A few of the district’s principals even have climbed the golden salary stairs past the 100 grand mark.
Those administrators are simply taking what the market will bear. And some, including McGinley, rightly stress the back-to-basics notion that if kids can’t read, they can’t succeed.
Gee, this non-educrat could have told them that long ago for a cut-rate consultant fee.
And when the district deals out lavish loot to top officials, the persisting spectacle of kids going to school in leaky trailers is particularly galling.
Still, while McGinley tops the superintendent-salary list in our state, she’s not the only S.C. school-district boss drawing big bucks. The superintendents in Greenville and Horry counties also make more than 200 grand.
Then again, that’s chicken change next to how much many institutions of higher learning spend on football and basketball coaches.
Hold that Tiger
Clemson pays an assistant football coach $1.3 million a year. His name is Chad Morris. His offense averaged a remarkable 41 points per game last season.
But his offense also has averaged only 15 points and 240.5 yards in his two games (both losses) against South Carolina.
OK, so nobody pays $60 — or more — for a ticket to watch, and no television enterprise pays huge rights fees to broadcast, school superintendents at work.
However, Clemson did pay Tommy Bowden $3.5 million to not coach when it fired him in the middle of the 2008 football season with six years left on his contract. And beyond the big business of big-time college sports and the big salaries of school-district big shots lies this learning experience:
Awareness of others’ pay breeds envy and, in some cases, despair.
Somewhere along our greedy ways, we lost what once was a polite aversion to discussing personal finances. Along with that unseemly shift, far too many Americans have jumped to the unwise conclusion that net worth and personal worth coincide. Knowing what the other guy makes inevitably feeds that myth.
Sure, taxpayers must know what, and whom, they’re buying — and at what price.
Yet linking your self-esteem to your bank account can induce delusional inferiority — or superiority — complexes.
It also breeds resentment of those with more lucrative gigs.
Back to school-district salary structures: While many of those administrators are cashing in on the intensifying competition for the supposedly best education-management talent, most teachers are paid much less.
They’re the foot soldiers on the front lines of this all-too-often mission impossible: conveying readin’, writin’ and ’rithmetic in classrooms that are frequently lacking in motivated students.
But hard-working teachers also can, at least occasionally, reap the precious thrill of inspiring a student’s best academic efforts — and results.
Meanwhile, though the bottom-line disparities in modern society’s salary priorities can be aggravating, the supply-and-demand formula, not government fiat, remains the most productive manner of setting a pay scale.
So hang in there, ye of the underpaid, whose ranks include teachers, soldiers, police officers, firefighters, prison guards, social workers, animal-shelter staffers and non-main-event pro wrestlers.
And, of course, editorial writers.
Savor the non-monetary consolation that your work, despite its meager fiscal compensation, makes our world a better place.
And if you’re among the educrats in — or below — the six-figure bracket, stop promoting kids who can’t read at their grade level.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.