by: Scott MacFarlane Updated:
WASHINGTON - Channel 2 Action News has learned tax payer dollars are being used for large salary bonuses for top executives in the U.S. Education Department.
With school budgets brutally tight nationwide since the start of the recession, programs have been cut across the nation, as well as teachers.
But all the while, Channel 2's Scott MacFarlane has learned Washington has been pouring big bucks into big bonus checks for top administrators in the U.S. Education Department.
Using the Freedom of Information Act, MacFarlane obtained a list of every salary bonus and performance award distributed to agency executives since 2009.
MacFarlane found some salary bonuses rose above $35,000 a year.
MacFarlane found the education department handed out about $500,000 in awards on Dec. 16, 2011, alone.
"I think the bonuses should go to our teachers who are teaching our kids, preparing the future. Not to top executives, that's political," teacher Anita Long told MacFarlane.
MacFarlane went to the U.S. Education Department for answers. They would not agree to an on-camera interview. They also would not reveal the names of the executives receiving the bonuses.
"Should you be rewarding people based on performance? There's an argument to be made. If you're doing a good job, you should get a bonus. The problem is, nobody knows who's getting the money. Nobody knows why they're getting the money," said Neal McCluskey, author of "Feds in the Classroom."
MacFarlane found hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses distributed to executives at many other federal agencies too, such as the border patrol and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
An education department spokesman told MacFarlane bonuses are needed to retain "exemplary workers."
They said they're trying to reduce the number of awards given in the future.