It’s good to be the King.
It’s not as good to be the New York taxpayers, SUNY students and their parents who’ll have to shoulder the bill for his compensation package.
On Monday, the SUNY Board of Trustees unanimously approved a homecoming for John King Jr. — a former state education commissioner and U.S. education secretary – by appointing him the new SUNY chancellor.
But like a real king, he doesn’t come cheap.
Under his new contract, King will be paid a salary of $750,000 a year. That’s over three times more than Gov. Kathy Hochul’s $225,000 salary, which is the highest in the country, and $300,000 more than the $450,000 annual salary of his predecessor, James Malatras.
But that’s not all.
In addition to his paycheck, SUNY trustees are providing King with up to $4,000 for travel expenses to cover transportation to and from his current home in Maryland, free housing in Albany, a SUNY-owned vehicle or a $1,000-a-month vehicle allowance, and a $12,500 monthly stipend for housing in New York City. He also was appointed to the faculty as a full professor, which has other benefits.
Immediately after the announcement, state Senate Republican leader Rob Ortt issued a statement calling the compensation package “grossly excessive,” and a “slap in the face” to families and students struggling to afford higher education. He called on trustees to reconsider this “bad deal” for students and taxpayers.
As if to emphasize that point, state and local officials in western New York joined United University Professions leaders at a rally at Buffalo State on Tuesday to highlight SUNY’s financial struggles, including $16 million-plus deficits at Buffalo State and SUNY Fredonia.
We understand government has to pay to get quality people in important positions, particularly in education.
But given the fiscal struggles faced by the SUNY system and by the state as a whole, and given how the pandemic and inflation has hurt everyday New Yorkers, is now really the time to be paying that much money to the head of SUNY, particularly one with as mixed a reputation as King earned during his first time in New York?
While King comes with an impressive CV, he didn’t exactly leave his job as state education commissioner in 2015 with the best reputation among educators or parents, particularly over his roll-out of Common Core standards, his tough standards for incoming teachers and his unpopular teacher evaluations that relied partly on student standardized test scores.
Is it possible SUNY trustees could have negotiated some kind of performance-based package for King based on how well he does his job, or that they could have attracted an equally qualified candidate for more modest compensation?
In these times, everyone needs to be frugal with the bottom line, especially those spending our tax dollars and tuition money.