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California Lawmaker Wants to Cap Hefty Payouts for Departing District Leaders

A California lawmaker wants to limit how much school boards can pay school superintendents and other top district officials when they are fired or they quit.

The state already caps severance payouts at 18 months of salary, but many districts are now using the 18-month maximum as the norm when making those deals, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Chronicle delved into superintendent compensation last year and found that superintendents who had been fired were among the state's highest-paid, largely because of those hefty severance packages.

Among those singled out by the Chronicle:

  • Kari McVeigh, the former superintendent of the New Haven Unified School District, whose 2013 pay exceeded $600,000. That figure was so high because more than 50 percent of it was an 18-month severance.
  • Merrill Grant, who was fired as superintendent of Brentwood Union School District in Contract Costa County, whose pay was $349,000 in 2013. The majority of that was the result of a severance payout.

Democratic lawmaker, Luis Alejo, who represents Watsonville in Santa Cruz County, wants to reduce the cap from 18 months. Alejo argues that the money should be spent in the classroom and not on parachute payments. 

This is not the first time the Alejo has taken aim at hefty compensation packages. Two years ago, he tried to cap those payouts at six months for those who had been terminated and at three months for those who left districts voluntarily.

The last time around, the California Association of School Administrators, the superintendents' group, pushed back on the bill, according to the paper. It argued that the high termination cost served as a disincentive for boards that may be prompted to fire superintendents for political reasons and not necessarily on educational grounds. Removing that disincentive could increase turnover in a profession already known for short tenures, they said.

A spokesman for the association told the paper that it had not yet taken a position on Alejo's new proposal.

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