The Ohio Board of Education is considering a plan to give the 19-member panel a taxpayer-funded pay raise.

The proposal would not change board members’ hourly compensation of $32.01, but would increase their earnings by allowing them to get paid for time spent preparing for monthly board meetings and responding to constituent e-mails and phone calls.

But Ohio law prevents current board members from taking advantage of the increase, Attorney General Dave Yost said in a recent advisory to the board. If approved by the board, it would apply only to newly elected or appointed members and current members if they return for a new term.

Board President Laura Kohler of New Albany said she supports the proposal which the board will consider at its July 8-9 meeting at the Ohio Department of Education in Columbus.

"Board members spend hours responding to constituent email and phone calls, which current policy doesn't recognize as a compensated activity. And certain positions on the board require considerable time spent planning and working with other board members and staff, which is also not compensated," Kohler said.

"I think the recommendation is a reasonable approach to honor the time commitment that board members make to do their jobs well."

However, Kohler said she has "some hesitation … because I don't see an obvious link between board member compensation and student achievement."

Under current guidelines, board members can be compensated for time spent attending board meetings and committees; participation in other education panels; up to 40 hours per year for professional development; up to 100 hours per year visiting schools or school facilities; and face-to-face meetings with constituents and addressing the public about board activities such as giving a speech to a civic group.

The new proposal would entitle board members additional compensation up to 144 hours per year for meeting preparation and expanded constituent services. The caps would be higher for the board president (280 hours), vice president (252 hours), committee chairs (216 hours) and vice chairs (180 hours).

Kohler said costs would increase by $125,000 if each board member "reached the maximum allowable number" of hours.

Last year, the boards’ combined earnings were $188,917. In addition, $18,029 in 2018 was spent for hotel accommodations and parking for members.

Earnings among members — 11 elected to represent a region of the state and eight appointed by the governor — vary widely, according to data provided by the Department of Education.

Last year, former board President Tess Elshoff had the highest earnings, $19,394. Meryl Johnson, a board member from Cleveland, had the second highest at $16,336. Most board members were paid $6,000 to $7,000.

The disparity is the result of some members spending more time on the job and whether they choose to submit hours for compensation.

In a recent memo to the board, state Superintendent Paolo DeMaria said compensation for meeting preparation is common among similar state boards, but cautioned that the added cost could be significant.

“I would ask that the board be sensitive to the fiscal implications of its actions,” he wrote.

“If a policy approved by the board was to lead, for example, to four additional hours per meeting, this would be multiplied by 19 board members for 11 meetings. This would have an impact of 836 hours at a rate of $36.97 per hour ($32.02 base pay plus $4.95 per hour reflecting a 14% state contribution to retirement and 1.45% to Medicare) totaling $30,907.”

By DeMaria’s calculation, each additional hour of compensation would cost an additional $7,727 a year, or about a 4% increase in total board compensation costs.

“These are not insignificant amounts,” he said.