Monday, August 19, 2013

The Robber Barons of Education

I was stunned when I read Dan Simmons’ article in the Sunday paper about the super-sweetheart deal the MATC Board gave outgoing president Bettsey Barhorst.  In exchange for “being available” for personal or phone consultations to the incoming new president for a month, and by phone for 3 months after that, she’ll collect 88 grand.


While the deal was approved in a closed-door session by the MATC Board back in mid-June, this is the first we’re hearing about it.  The Board says it didn’t try to hide the deal, and the news release announcing the hiring of Jack Daniels to take Barhorst’s place says only that she agreed to remain available through the transition.


Hell, for 88 grand, I’d “remain available”, too!


The deal says, as I understand it, that during the first month of the transition – September - Barhorst has to make herself available in person, if necessary – with MATC picking up any travel costs necessary for a personal appearance – and for the next 3 months, all she has to do is take a phone call, should the need arise.


Who writes deals like this?  Who needs four months to transition into the job? Daniels has run educational institutions like MATC for 15 years in 3 states.  Anybody who needs more than a month to “transition” to a similar job probably shouldn’t have been hired.


This is even better than the sweetheart deal Governor Walker just worked for his hand-picked Capitol Police Chief, hardliner Dave Erwin, shuffling him on paper to a non-existent job for a few hours, and then back to his top-cop job at a raise of nearly a thousand bucks a month.  That’s a lot of cash for busting a bunch of old folks who sing over the noon hour at the Capitol.


At least Erwin is expected to actually show up and work five days a week.


Apparently the MATC Board thinks it’s the board of some Wall Street corporation, handing out fat sweetheart deals and golden parachutes and the like.  One of the reasons John Matthews remains the most powerful man in education in Dane County is that year after year – at least, before Act 10 – he hammered through great deals for Madison Teachers, Inc. as the union’s executive director.  But those deals were all done in broad daylight, with plenty of scrutiny from the public and the media. 


But deals like Barhorst’s are – if you ask me – completely over-the-top.  88 grand to be available to take calls for a few months.  We need a whole lot more daylight shed on stuff like this, BEFORE it gets approved.


If you’re looking for modern-day robber barons, you need not cast your gaze as far as Wall Street.


  1. FWIW, the Milwaukee Area Tech College is now and has been for 15++ years the most drunken-sailor-spending tax entity in SE Wisconsin, bar none.

    But nobody notices b/c their tax line-item on the prop-tax bill is very, very, very small indeed.

  2. That's part of the problem. I/we pay about $2600/yr to the Madison school district and around $500 for MATC (off the top of my head, not exact). Gee, what a good deal, huh? Except everybody in a multi-county area is also paying the MATC tax, not just folks in the Madison School district. That's a LOT of coin.