Richland 2 Adds $1,000 Bonus for Teacher Attendance

June 17, 2011

Investigative Reports

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The NerveFor more than a year, Richland School District 2 officials have failed to follow a state law directing all districts to post the spending details of their budget online, arguing that Richland 2 will not do so until it receives funding from the state.

But while Richland 2 says it will continue to wait for assistance involved with putting its check registers online – an initial one-time set-up cost of $2,650 and annual recurring expenses of $2,030, according to the district – the district’s budget for the 2011-12 year includes hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses for teachers who manage to not to miss a day of work during the school year.

According to the 2011-12 budget, teachers who go the entire school year without missing a day of classes will receive a $1,000 bonus. Bus drivers who do likewise will receive a $300 bonus, according to district spokeswoman Theresa Riley.

Richland 2 stands out in terms of transparency, or lack thereof.

Of the state’s 85 school district’s 83 have posted their check registers online, and the other holdout, Lexington School District 1, says it will do so once a new computer software program is in place later this summer.

No other school district in South Carolina has received funding to help in posting their budget details online, according to the state comptroller general’s office.

Under Richland 2’s budget for the coming year, teachers would be paid $300 for each semester if they had perfect attendance and an additional $400 if they don’t miss a day during either semester. Bus drivers would get $100 per semester, with an additional $100 if they go the entire year without missing a day.

In addition, the district plans to restore pay for unused personal leave for employees with more than 102 days of personal leave already stockpiled.

The benefits were not included in this fiscal year’s budget as Richland 2 sought to cut costs. The district’s budget for the coming year, which starts July 1, will be $199 million, up from approximately $191 million this year.

Richland 2 board of trustees originally sought a $195.7 million budget for 2011-12, but Richland County Council, which has final say, increased Richland 2’s budget to the maximum amount allowable under state law.

Richland 2’s proposal to pay teachers and bus drivers for attending work regularly would appear to be unusual.

“We do not pay bonuses for perfect attendance at Lexington 1, and as far as I know we’ve not done so during my 13 years here,” Lexington 1 spokeswoman Mary Beth Hill said.

Lexington-Richland School District 5 also does not pay teachers or other employees an attendance bonus, spokesman Buddy Price said.

However, District 5 employees who have accrued more than 90 days of personal leave are compensated for each day over that level at the rate the district would have to pay a substitute.

For teachers, that’s $75 a day while all other staff earns $58 for each eight-hour day of unused leave they accumulate. Payments are made at the end of the fiscal year.

The S.C. Department of Education doesn’t monitor how many South Carolina school districts pay any kind of bonus for employee attendance, spokesman Jim Foster said.

In 2010-11, 71 bus drivers and 549 teachers in Richland 2 had perfect attendance. Under the proposed budget, that would have resulted in more than $570,000 in bonuses being paid out to them had the benefit been in place this past year.

The district has 1,846 teachers and 131 bus drivers, according to Riley.

Richland 2 pays $65 a day to teachers for each unused sick leave day over 102 days not taken.

For 2010-11, Richland 2 calculated a savings of $318,643 by reducing additional sick leave incentive pay, according to its budget for that year.

Reach Dietrich at (803) 779-5022, ext. 110, or kevin@thenerve.org.