A first time for everything
I’d never seen or heard anything like it when Board of Education President Chris Sprowls announced that Superintendent Lee Leiker had requested a $5,000 pay cut because of concerns about future budgets.
Leiker made the request because he sees difficult financial times ahead for the school district. Between declining enrollment and a climate in Topeka that seems positively hostile to school funding, it doesn’t take Nostradamus to see tight budgets in the future. What is special, though, is someone in a leadership position seeing that cuts are going to have to be made and saying, “Me first.”
Huge investment banks fail, and the executives get lavish severance packages. Pro sports teams finish in last place, and the “stars” who led them demand multimillion-dollar extensions. Many public employees consider a steady or rising salary to be something they are entitled to. It’s a bitter pill to swallow to agree to even a slight cut in tough times. But a public employee recommending that his or her own salary be cut?
Leiker is right when he says there are going to be tough decisions, unpopular decisions to make. There are bound to be cuts that feel like a lot more than belt-tightening. I can only hope that when cuts come, people give priority to good teachers. Good teachers makes for good schools, and Leiker’s voluntary pay cut is enough to pay for 25 teachers’ $200 per year salary increase the board awarded Monday.
Leiker saw what is important for the school district and made a personal sacrifice. He deserves high praise for that, and other public officials would do well to pay attention.
— ADAM STEWART