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$125,000 Salary to Serve on a School Board? In Los Angeles, Yes.

While most school board members across the country get no compensation for serving on their local school boards, those who serve full-time in Los Angeles will be able to make up to $125,000.

The panel that oversees compensation for Los Angeles school board members unanimously approved the new salary—a 174 percent hike—this week, according to the Los Angeles Times.

That amount will be more than what state legislators in California make, though Los Angeles school board members represent districts of comparable sizes, according to Kyle Stokes, a reporter at Southern California Public Radio.

The increase will make Los Angeles school board members among the highest paid in California and the United States. Los Angeles Unified board members who have jobs outside of serving on the board will receive $50,000, up from $26,437.

L.A.'s school board often gets caught up in major national education and political debates, including immigration and charter school expansion. The board has historically been a launching point for those who aspire to higher political office.

Among the nation's three largest school districts —Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York—Los Angeles members are the only ones who get a salary. They are also the only board members in the three cities who are elected.

New York City, the country's largest school district, does not have a school board because the mayor is in charge of the school system. Appointees to the city's Panel for Educational Policy—which does approve school district policies—do not receive a salary. 

What percentage of school board members across the country are paid?

Less than half, according to a 2010 report, "School Boards Circa 2010: Governance in the Accountability Era," by Frederick M. Hess and Olivia Meeks.

About 62 percent of school board members reported that they did not receive a salary, about 14 percent said they got an annual salary of $5,000 or more, and 2 percent reported making more than $15,000, according to the report, which was published by the National School Boards Association, The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and the Iowa School Boards Foundation. One in four reported receiving a stipend for attending meetings.

In New Jersey, state law prohibits school board members from receiving compensation for their service on the board, but allows travel reimbursement, with limits. 

In the 2010 report, about 42 percent of board members said they spent 25 hours or more a month tending to school board duties. Seven percent said they spent less than seven hours a month on school board business.

The survey found wide differences in how much time members in small and large districts spent on district business. In large districts, close to 40 percent of board members reported working on board business more than 40 hours a month, while about 8 percent of members in small districts said they spent that much time on board business.

The National School Boards Association says it plans to update the survey next year.  

School board members typically set policies around academics, district finance and management, and hire superintendents.

In Los Angeles, Lupita Sanchez Cornejo, the chairwoman of the Los Angeles Board of Education compensation review committee, told  KABC that the decision to increase salaries came after hearing testimony about the amount of time that school board members spend on district business. That can be more than 60 hours, Cornejo said.

The salary is set every five years, but the board did not get a raise in 2012, according to the LA Times. The new salary will become effective in 60 days, the paper said.

Monica Ratliff, a former school board member who left the board last month, told Southern California Public radio that the job was a demanding one—with emails coming in the middle of the night—and difficult to do well part-time.

You can listen to the audio here.

Related stories: 

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