Reykdal, Nguyễn Launch Effort to Right-Size Local School Board Director Compensation with Responsibilities

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Katy Payne she/her

Today, Senator Joe Nguyễn introduced Senate Bill 6223, a bill requested by State Superintendent Chris Reykdal to establish levels of compensation for locally elected school board directors that more appropriately reflect their level of responsibility.

OLYMPIA—In Washington state, locally elected school board directors are accountable for the operations of their school district––from approving the budget, to adopting the curriculum, to setting the vision and strategic goals for the district, to hiring and evaluating the district superintendent.

Despite their level of responsibility, school board directors receive minimal compensation, and many are not compensated at all. State law, which has not been updated since 1987, does not allow school board directors to earn more than $50 per day and $4,800 per year. Adjusted for inflation, those amounts from 1987 today would be $138 per day and $13,240 per year, a difference of 176%.

Without the financial resources to be able to take time off work, afford childcare, and/or access transportation to attend the monthly meetings, and with little to no compensation associated with the position, many interested and qualified community members are likely not pursuing the opportunity to become a school board director.

In a recent study and survey by the Washington State Department of Commerce, just 13% of school board directors reported earning an annual household income of less than $60,000, despite nearly half of Washington’s students identifying as low-income. Further, researchers found that just 10% of Washington’s school board directors identified as directors of color, despite students of color comprising 50% of the statewide student population.

Joe Nguyen and Chris Reykdal

Senator Joe Nguyễn introduced Senate Bill 6223 today to address these imbalances. If passed, the bill would establish a new compensation model for school board directors that more appropriately reflects the level of responsibility associated with the position.

“Each year, our students, families, educators, and school staff become increasingly more diverse,” said Senator Nguyễn. “Those who govern our schools, though, are often not reflective of the communities they serve. We have a chance to remove a significant financial barrier to this critical role, opening up the opportunity to serve to many more interested community members.”

The compensation model proposed in the legislation allows for school board directors to receive a maximum amount of $500 per month plus $0.50 per student enrolled in the district. School boards would have the ability to adopt a compensation model that is lower than the maximum allowed if they choose.

Basing compensation levels, in part, on the number of students in the districts is intended to reflect the scope and complexity of the work, as well as the financial risk.

“School board directors play a significant role in the leadership of a school district,” said State Superintendent Chris Reykdal. “We expect them to manage multi-million-dollar budgets, adopt local policies and governance, review and approve curriculum and instructional materials, and make informed decisions that have a major impact on the way their district serves their students, staff, and families.”

“In total, our 295 school boards manage 43% of our state's tax dollars, as well as their local levy funds. They deserve fair compensation for the paramount duty they perform for our state,” Reykdal continued.

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