8:28 am CST - March 30, 2011
Posted under On The Record
By Peggy Venable, Americans for Prosperity-Texas
Texas Insider Report: AUSTIN, Texas – Everything’s bigger in Texas – so the saying goes. It especially rings true for super-sized public school superintendent salaries in the Lone Star State. The Texas Association of School Boards and the Texas Association of School Administrators are sponsoring the rally on March 30 at the Capitol.
This week, hundreds of school board members and superintendents will rally in Austin opposing any cuts to education funding in Texas.
TASB has said that as many as 100,000 teaching jobs must be cut in order to make up for the $9 billion in proposed state education funding cuts.
We disagree. School districts have ample room to make cuts on spending outside of the classroom, without eliminating teaching positions or short-changing students.
In Texas, 214 superintendents take home an annual salary more than the Governor of Texas, whose salary is set at $150,000 a year. If superintendents in Texas were paid no more than the Governor, schools would save $20 million each biennium.
Unfortunately for Texas’ taxpayers, this issue of excessive salaries for superintendents only scratches the surface. Along with this generous base salary, the compensation package often includes lavish benefits and perks not often found in the private sector, like housing allowances, car allowances, and more.
These perks, along with superintendents’ annual bonuses, figure into many more millions being spent on just the one position in Texas public education.
School districts often defend these high salaries as the cost of recruiting the best candidate to run their district. But it is disingenuous to put forward a free market defense for outrageous salaries as public schools still have a monopoly on education in this state.
Texas has a 1:1 teacher to non-teacher ratio, with many non-teachers (school administrators and professional support staff) earning $9,000 – $38,000 more annually than teachers.
Beaumont ISD has less than 20,000 students enrolled in the district, yet is home to the highest-paid superintendent in the state. Dr. Carrol Thomas takes home an annual base salary of $347,834. That is two-and-a-half times more than what the governor of our state earns!
Texas is the economic leader of the U.S., and yet our state has not gone unscathed in the economic downturn. Our state leaders’ initiative to cut government, rather than raise taxes, to make up for the revenue shortfall is an example for the rest of the U.S. to follow.
But Texas has fallen behind other states in making sensible education cuts that protect classrooms. New Jersey, Michigan and New York have all taken steps to enact laws that would limit superintendents’ and administrators’ salaries.
Michigan lawmakers filed a bill this year that would cap superintendents’ salaries to 75 percent of the governor’s salary. Gov. Jennifer Granholm makes $177,000 annually, which would limit superintendent pay to $132,750 a year in her state.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has proposed limiting superintendent and administrator pay based on district size, with superintendents of the smallest districts capped at $120,000 per year, and those of the largest districts capped at $175,000.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has a put a very similar proposal before his state legislature.
Our state legislators need to enact common-sense education reforms that will hold administrators accountable for their spending and ensure our tax dollars are used wisely.
The governor manages a state population of 24.7 million, a budget totaling around $80 billion a year, is responsible for the Texas National Guard, and dozens of agencies report to him. While the job of educating our children is a priority, it is hard to argue that a superintendent’s responsibilities are more challenging than that of the governor.
In Texas, cutting administrative salaries and positions alone won’t get the job done. We should also cut positions outside the classroom. Teaching positions don’t need to be eliminated to meet the education budget cuts.
The residents of Texas have a median household income of $50,000 and should not be required to pay exuberant salaries for school superintendents and spend precious education dollars on so many non-teaching staff.
Taxpayers already provide school districts with the resources to succeed; now it is up to policy makers to ensure those resources are spent on educating our students.
Peggy Venable is the Texas Director for Americans for Prosperity.