http://dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2008/11/29/unionyes.ART_ART_11-29-08_A1_5PC2RH8.html?sid=101OEA staff wages
Teachers union's pay a surprise to many
Saturday, November 29, 2008
By Bill BushTHE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
The average salary for Ohio teachers dropped last year for the first time in at least seven years, but that's not the case for most employees of the state's largest teachers union.
Counting everyone from receptionists up to the executive director, the median salary for the 234-person staff of the Columbus-based Ohio Education Association is nearly $82,000.
The OEA pays 102 employees six-figure salaries, including 34 who made more than $120,000 for the fiscal year that ended in August.
The highest paid employee is Executive Director Dennis Reardon, who was paid $176,317, according to the union's annual report on file with the U.S. Department of Labor.
OEA President Patricia Frost-Brooks was paid $172,574, and the union's vice president and treasurer each were paid about $151,400.
"My gut feeling is that the average school teacher in our district has no idea what the average (union representative) is making," said Kevin Fourman, past president of the Bucyrus Education Association.
In all, three-fourths of the OEA staff make more than the $53,410 the average Ohio teacher was paid last school year, and almost one-third made more than the $113,890 average salary of the state's superintendents.
The OEA's officers and employees also were reimbursed a total of more than $2 million for business expenses, which the annual report doesn't detail. Almost half the staff were reimbursed more than $10,600 each, with the top reimbursement of $40,463 going to Vice President William Leibensperger.
The union says these reimbursements cover expenses including travel and supplies.
Spokesman Mike Mahoney said the salaries are appropriate for a staff that provides lobbying, research, education-improvement initiatives, legal services and communications comparable to other similar-size affiliates of the National Educational Association.
In response to the teachers' pay falling last year, the OEA froze the salaries of five top officials, Mahoney said.
Members pay $477 in annual dues to the union, which represents 130,000 people statewide, including Columbus public teachers.
"It's a very democratically run organization," Mahoney said. "We don't keep (the salaries) a secret."
But the leaders of some OEA locals contacted across the state said they had no idea that state union officials were paid so much.
"I am a little shocked," said Lima Education Association President Lori Ruschau-Will, whose local signed a new contract last year that included no pay raises.
"I was not aware that they made that much money.
"I think the classroom teachers have a problem with any management person making six figures. That's because they're not in the trenches dealing with the students day to day. Education is supposed to be about the students."
New teachers in Bucyrus are paid about $28,300 a year, and the top salary is a little more than $57,800, said Fourman, of the Bucyrus Education Association.
He said the state union officials' salaries would "raise an eyebrow" among teachers.
"I certainly think that somewhere out there, there would be an educator who would be surprised or resentful that (OEA officials are) making a lot more than the teachers in the classrooms," Fourman said.
The state's second-largest teachers union, the 16,250-member Ohio Federation of Teachers, paid President Susan Taylor $22,733 for the fiscal year that ended in June.
At the same time, the union reimbursed Cincinnati Public Schools, where Taylor is on leave from her teaching job, $100,700 for her salary and benefits.
The benefits account for about one-third of the reimbursement, Taylor estimated.
None of the federation's employees is paid more than $100,000.
The OEA does not report individual employees' benefits.
Labels: Bill Leibensperger, Dennis Reardon, OEA, OFT, Ohio Education Association, Ohio Federation of Teachers, Patricia Frost-Brooks, salaries, Sue Taylor