In 2010, our DeSoto County teachers were forced into taking a pay cut. Our current superintendent claimed that he was going to take a pay cut as well. He was even recognized by CNN as one of their Top 10 Most Intriguing People in 2010 for taking such a drastic cut in pay. Now, with the Ballot 42 Initiative and discussion about state funding of education, I think it is important for teachers and citizens to be reminded of some facts surrounding 2010, education funding and the truths behind the cuts.
First, let me share some quotes from Milton Kuykendall in the CNN article.
“I’ll be honest with you, the state of Mississippi is in a mess,” he told WMC-TV. “The state of Mississippi doesn’t have any money, and the whole issue is we have to cut.” He said he felt that he couldn’t ask any school employees to take a pay cut unless he took one himself. “I started first,” Kuykendall said. “I cut my salary 10 percent, I cut the principals 10 days [off their work schedule], which is about 4.2 percent, assistant superintendents eight percent, and the directors the same as the principals.”
“There are 31,238 students in DeSoto County schools and the cuts, which take effect July 1, will save millions.”
Here are some bullet points of interest:
1. The very last quote above proves just how much cutting administration costs helps our district. According to Kuykendall, it saved us MILLIONS!
2. According to Kuykendall, the state of Mississippi was without money in 2010, meaning that the economy was the cause of our state’s financial state. It was NOT the GOP or the legislature that short changed education or our schools. You can’t spend money that you just don’t have!
3. Kuykendall claimed to have taken a 10% pay cut, but according to the salary data, his highest salary was $158,000 roughly. His drop in salary the following year was to $152,000 approximately. That is not a 10% cut.
4. Milton Kuykendall actually retired shortly after he took the ‘pay cut’. Retiring, collecting full retirement + a 25% salary (25% of his pre-retirement salary), not paying into PERS and collecting the 13th check is NOT the same thing as taking a cut for the greater good. He actually came out better, making more money than before he retired.
5. Yes, the principals did receive a pay cut, BUT they were required to work less days each year. That is not the same as teachers forced to take a cut in pay but required to work the same amount of days as they were prior to the cut.
Since the 2010 year, administrators’ salaries were restored and increased substantially. The teachers’ salaries were not restored, and according to the document teachers signed in 2010, their pay should have been restored the next year. The signed agreement was only for a cut for that one school year, yet no teachers’ salaries were ever restored. The millions we had previously saved by cutting administrators’ salaries was once again not happening and actually that spending was increased.
I met with Kuykendall in the spring of 2013 along with another DCS parent, and we discussed teacher dissatisfaction with the 2010 pay cut, their money not being restored and their discontent over principals getting their money restored and raised higher than before the cuts. Kuykendall did say that he would be giving the teachers a $1500-$2000/ year raise in an attempt to restore some of the original money cut. This money was supposed to be implemented over a two year period ($750 the first year and $750-$1000 the second year). Many teachers were not satisfied.
One year later (2014), it was, in fact, the legislature that increased salaries for teachers statewide. Without that increase from our legislators, our DeSoto teachers would still be stuck in the pay cut of 2010, and many say they still are without the money that they should be making. The increase by Kuykendall felt like a slap in the face to many of our educators who had seen the county office employment numbers increase significantly along with substantial increases in administration salaries districtwide. Kuykendall told me that it was easier to give 40 principals a raise than it was 2000 teachers. While that may be true, I know that where there is a will, there is always a way. And we shouldn’t do for some just because it is easy and forget about those on the front lines. The desire to take care of the teachers was never at the forefront for Kuykendall. This was further proven true when he remained absent and silent in 2014 when teachers were fighting to get raises from the legislature and absent and silent this year when the raises for assistant teachers bill was brought up in legislation.
Now, it is important to mention some things that you may not know. Kuykendall’s daughter became a DCS elementary school principal in 2010, the year of the cuts. Kuykendall restoring principals’ salaries and raising them higher than before the cuts was quite convenient for his daughter. Of course, our superintendent would want to see her make as much money as possible. Not to mention, a significant change was made by Kuykendall a few years after he became superintendent. Criteria such as years of experience (seniority) and degrees held were no longer used as the basis for determining principals’ salaries. The new pay structure resulted in the same pay for all elementary principals, the same pay for all middle school principals and the same pay scale for all high school principals. This change in their pay scale was again quite convenient for his daughter and certain friends and unfortunate for our veteran principals.
Another point, that I know no one is aware of, concerns a special relationship that Kuykendall has with one of our principals. This principal was in a bad financial state in 2013. Kuykendall had Treadway write to the Attorney General of MS and inquire as to the legality of paying title school principals more money based on the free and reduced lunch numbers at those schools. The AG responded to this inquiry on April 1, 2013. AG Hood’s response was that it was legal and within our district’s rights to do so with board approval. Kuykendall’s special principal friend was able to be paid more money along with the other title school principals. A few months after this was passed by our school board, MK’s principal friend filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy and his/her wages were garnished x amount of dollars/month. So here again, more money for administration under the guise of doing something to help principals of title schools when really he was just helping a friend in need while spending more tax dollars on administration.
Did the teachers in the title schools get a raise like their principals did? No, they did not. Their pay remained cut and no different from the other teachers in the district. The Attorney General did state in his response to our district that teachers could be paid more based on our free and reduced lunch numbers. The only teachers known for benefitting from this inquiry were those that signed on to work in a title school for five years. It was not a program offered to all teachers though.
AG Inquiry: https://app.box.com/s/taaorf5kr0tdeesz7y9uuqt36hiyznjv
In closing, I wonder why any teacher would trust the word of Kuykendall. Teachers have continuously been used as pawns in his political and personal agendas. There has always been a creative spin and play on words used to make teachers and citizens believe that he is simply doing things for the greater good of all employees and students. Money has always been no object for administration, but it has always been conveniently lacking when it comes to our teachers. It makes me wonder why any educator would believe his rhetoric about the Ballot 42 Initiative or any other political agenda he chooses to push. If any teacher or citizen truly cares about funding for education, I encourage those individuals to put in some time and effort to research the facts. I hope that most people have realized by now to do the opposite of whatever Kuykendall tells you to do.
Link to our district’s financial audits via the State Auditor’s website:
Link to the annual state superintendent’s report of district expenditures and revenues on the MS Department of Education’s website: