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The Benefits of Being a School Board Trustee

School board trustees receive paltry salaries but they also receive comparatively cushy benefits.

There’s no arguing about it: San Diego Unified school board trustees don’t bring home hefty salaries.

School board president John Lee Evans recently claimed trustees receive about $17,500 a year for their part-time work on the board. We fact checked that claim last week and found it to be true.

But in the days since, I’ve gotten a few emails from readers with a valid question: Sure, school board trustees collect relatively small paychecks but don’t they receive benefits too?

The answer is yes — and that’s especially significant in San Diego Unified.

The district is known for its generous benefits packages.

For school board members, that means annual medical, dental and vision coverage valued at $13,330, according to the school district.

The majority of school district employees receive another $80 a year in non-medical benefits, including access to unemployment and worker’s compensation insurance.

School board members’ benefits packages are strikingly similar to those the district gives to its full-time employees, though trustees are technically just part-time staffers. This is a point that Evans aimed to emphasize in a recent debate over a fellow board member’s new day job but few private-sector workers with part-time gigs receive such cushy benefits.

And like all school district workers, trustees don’t pay insurance premiums and can choose any plan, even if it’s not the best deal for the district.

The district’s benefits packages are almost unheard of. Those generous benefits, which some district administrators have dubbed “Cadillac benefits,” were just one half of a bargain with district workers, as we wrote in 2011:

But if San Diego teachers and principals have enjoyed Cadillac benefits, their salaries look more like a Honda compared to nearby school districts. San Diego Unified has historically offered its workers a trade off: Put up with lower paychecks and we’ll put up the costs to keep you and your family healthy.

School board trustees are also taking advantage of that trade-off. A district spokesman confirmed no current board member has rejected the benefits.

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