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Superintendent Salary Caps

“It’s a new day for superintendent pay,” said New Jersey Governor Chris Christie last week.  Christie is proposing capping superintendent’s salaries and establishing a sliding pay scale based on the size of the district.  Superintendents would no longer individually negotiate their own contracts, but would be eligible for a 15% merit pay that would not be considered in pension earnings.

According to a press release from the Governor’s office, superintendent salaries are “out of proportion with the private sector, current economic realities, and district demands.”  Local school boards may not exceed the proposed cap. 

Currently 70% of NJ superintendents are above the Governor’s scale.

Christie thinks his “new” idea will start a trend throughout the country.

Caps for sale 2  Of course, it’s not a new idea.  For example, several years ago district superintendents’ salaries were capped in New York.  District superintendents in New York State don’t head up individual school districts, but oversee groups of districts in particular geographic regions.  There are slightly fewer than 50 DSs.

At the time, the major alarm from the field was that capping the DS salaries would mean that fewer people of real ability would consider the job.  What actually happened was that fewer MEN of real ability applied, opening the doors to greater numbers of WOMEN of real ability.  As a result, the number of women DSs (2 or 3 before the cap) multiplied.

So the plus side of capping superintendents’ salaries is that the move may offer opportunities to more women and maybe minorities.  On the other hand, capping salaries for small school superintendents will likely guarantee continuous turnover.  It’s true that some small school superintendents’ salaries seem to be out of line with the marketplace.  A major reason is that boards of education, happy with their superintendent, will raise his or her salary in hopes that he or she won’t leave.  Otherwise, the board can be looking for leadership every two or three years, an occurrence that is costly for both taxpayers and for students.

So we’ll see how the Governor’s great new idea plays out.  Capping doesn’t often turn out exactly as people think it will.

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