You Get What You Pay For (follow-up)

The Curmudgeon would like to tell you that he’s not the kind of person who says “I told you so” when he makes an argument that time proves to be correct.

He’d like to tell you that but he can’t because he doesn’t like to lie.

More than a year ago he wrote about how New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had limited his state’s school districts to paying their superintendents no more than $175,000 a year. While The Curmudgeon had no particular beef with that number, he felt it had been arrived at arbitrarily and without any underlying evidence that such a limit, in the current market, would pose no obstacle to the state’s school districts finding the high caliber of people they need to lead their systems. In an environment in which “the market” is being treated like a god that must be worshiped – especially by Republicans like Christie – no attempt had been made to study that market before the $175,000 figure was declared to be the new limit.

And time has apparently proven The Curmudgeon right.

Thou shalt pay no state employee more than thee pays me.

Thou shalt pay no state employee more than thee pays me.

Governor Christie recently proposed raising the arbitrary $175,000 limit to $191,500 and permitting annual merit increases of two percent and supplemental “stipends” for unspecified purposes. His education secretary acknowledged that the cap had made it hard for larger school districts to recruit good superintendents and was causing a “brain drain” of school leaders in the state.

The Curmudgeon has no idea whether the $191,500 figure has any more basis in reality than the $175,000, but it shows once again the sheer folly of public officials with salary-setting authority setting those salaries so they can be no higher than their own and doing so without any basis for their decisions other than their own instincts about what might constitute a reasonable salary and their own ego in insisting that no one be paid more than them. The Curmudgeon has long seen this on the local level, in Philadelphia, where the city council has to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into paying people more money than its members because, well, any idiot who can persuade people to vote for them can get elected to city council but it takes a certain combination of higher education and years of experience to be a health commissioner, water commissioner, police commissioner, or many other public offices that require real, actual, hard skills and not just the ability to glad-hand other politicians and the voting public.

You get what you pay for – as New Jersey’s public schools have learned during the five years of this silliness. One would hope this kind of thing wouldn’t happen again – but then, that kind of hope would be even sillier, wouldn’t it?

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