Asleep in Seattle

Jeff Kuhner

If you're a school administrator and you want to purchase HDTVs, home-theater equipment, iPods, camcorders (you name it) for personal use on the taxpayer's dime, then I've got a place for you: The Northshore School District in Seattle.

The Seattle Times reports that a Northshore contract provision allows for these kinds of questionable purchases for its approximately 90 top administrators. And here's the kicker: When the administrators leave their jobs they get to take the equipment with them.

"To buy things for purely personal use out of taxpayer money, that's what outraged us," said Donna Lurie, who represents the Northshore Education Office Professionals Association, which represents support staff in the district.

Ms. Lurie should be outraged. Northshore administrators already make, on average, over $100,000 a year along with an excellent benefits package. Unlike, say, teachers, who are underpaid and struggling to make ends meet, these administrators seem to be doing very well for themselves. The last thing they need is to haul off electronic goods at taxpayers' expense. What makes this even more outrageous is that the district is suffering from a budget crunch, needing to slash $3.4 million in 2008-2009. The administrators' lavish--and totally unnecessary--perk is siphoning off finite resources, which could be put to better use.

The administrators insist there's nothing illegal about all of this. True. But it is unethical and unseemly. District budgets should focus on putting the interests of students and teachers first--not padding the expense accounts of already-generously compensated top administrators. Most Northshore taxpayers seem not to be paying attention to this education scandal. Call them asleep in Seattle. They need to wake up and realize they're being swindled.

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