The $19,656 annual salaries of Washington's school board members, second highest in the nation and by far the highest in the Washington area, should be substantially reduced, the D.C. League of Women Voters has recommended.
"Board membership should not be considered a full-time professional job," the league said in a study report.
"Opponents of the current salary level argue that board membership should be viewed as a community service, not a job . . . ," the report declared. "They feel that a full-time salary encourages board members to get into the day-to-day running of the schools, bringing them into conflict with the superintendent."
The league said it began its study last year after the resignation of superintendent Vincent E. Reed, who said publicly that he could not cope with the obstacles placed in his path by the school board.
In its study report, the league said the board "should be a policy-making body and should not infringe on . . . the superintendent . . . " It said parents should be encouraged to deal through administrative channels, not through board members.
It recommended that the present mix of 11 members representing election wards and the city at large should be maintained, continuing as nonpartisan. But it said members should be chosen in general elections in even-numbered years, not at special elections in odd years as is now the case.
The salary recommendation was the sharpest change from present policy contained in the league report. Only New York City, where per diem payments can total as much as $29,000 a year, has higher pay for school board members, the league said. Baltimore, a slightly larger city than Washington, pays its nine appointed board members $5 for each meeting. Dallas, about the same size as Washington, pays nothing, while Tampa, Fla., pays $13,122 a year.
The D.C. pay of $19,656 for all board members except the president is pegged at half the pay level of City Council members. The board president receives $22,152. Montgomery County, which has about the same number of students (95,000) as the District, pays its school board members $7,200 a year. Fairfax County, with nearly 125,000 students, pays board members $5,500.