The Texas Tribune re-launched its public employee payroll database last week, citing a need for more dynamic search capabilities. The original application, which the Texas Tribune found to be the most popular feature on its site, only allowed a visitor to search by name or agency. Today, users have a full range of search tools, allowing for a more in-depth analysis.

Through the Texas Freedom of Information Act, the Texas Tribune collected some 340,000 public employee records, accounting for $15 billion in payroll at the state’s largest agencies, universities, cities, school districts, and mass transit operators. Just by toggling through the “Job Title” search function, I found that the 169 “School Crossing Guards” across the state make, on average, $9,683 per year, while the highest paid crossing guards in the state receive $15,080. School Crossing Guard Supervisors make approximately $24,000 on average, while the highest paid Supervisor takes home $47,844. According to the data, “School Crossing Guards” and their supervisors are only on the payroll under that title in seven Texas jurisdictions.

Why do only seven jurisdictions in Texas have salaried crossing guards? $15,080 works out to almost $20 per hour for a guard working two 2-hour shifts per day during a nine-month school year – is that, in fact, a crossing guards schedule?

Obviously, the database can’t answer those questions, but having the data available and making the government transparent allows for us to discover questions we would have never thought to ask. We can then take those questions to PTA meetings, or our school superintendents, or our school board members to find answers.

Kudos to the Texas Tribune for making a great product even better.

– Mike Joyce