School & District Management From Our Research Center

Here’s What Superintendents Think They Should Be Paid

A survey asked district leaders if they thought their salary was fair
By Caitlynn Peetz — May 14, 2024 3 min read
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More than half of the leaders in the top ranks of America’s school districts say they’re not compensated fairly for their work. For superintendents, however, a raise of $22,500 could fix that, according to a recent survey by the EdWeek Research Center.

Twenty-seven percent of district leaders who responded to the survey—and occupy positions including superintendent, finance chief, and curriculum director—said they felt they did not receive a fair salary, and that it made them want to leave their current job. Another 24 percent said they felt their salary was unfair, but it did not have an effect on their desire to stay in their position.

Superintendent turnover has inched up in recent years, as people in districts’ top jobs have faced a steadily growing list of academic challenges, stress, and, occasionally, upheaval as the political composition of school boards has shifted.

Amid this portfolio, the new survey provides some fresh insight into one potential factor behind the turnover. It also offers new information on what district leaders think about a topic that’s often the subject of public debate: their pay.

Allovue, an education finance software company, commissioned the EdWeek Research Center to conduct a nationally representative survey of 1,855 teachers, school leaders, and district leaders on a variety of school finance topics. The survey was conducted online in November 2023 and released in April.

Turnover in the superintendency, in particular, can have wide-ranging impacts on school districts.

The person in the superintendent’s seat sets the tone for the district for, potentially, many years, deciding priorities and how budgets are allocated.

It’s a big job with a lot of responsibility. And while there seems to be near-universal agreement that teachers aren’t paid enough for their work, there’s less uniformity in opinions about pay for school district leaders.

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Raising teacher pay has long been a political priority, with lawmakers enshrining salary increases in law, particularly in recent years. On the other hand, lawmakers in some states have taken aim at superintendent pay, in some cases setting maximum salaries for districts’ top leaders or proposing to do so.

The median salary among superintendents who responded to the Allovue survey was $127,500. The survey also asked them what they thought a fair salary would be. The median response was $150,000, working out to an 18 percent raise from the current median.

Those figures are a bit lower than other estimates of superintendents’ median pay.

In the annual AASA Superintendent Salary and Benefits Study, released in March, the median salary superintendents reported was $156,000, with the total typically higher in larger districts.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics had a similar estimate for school system chief executives’ median pay in May 2023: $157,560. The median pay for all chief executives, spanning the full range of industries, was higher: almost $207,000.

The AASA report noted that superintendent salaries have generally increased over the past decade, but have not kept pace with inflation.

Most teachers also feel underpaid: 68 percent in the Allovue survey said they don’t have a fair salary, with 47 percent of teachers saying their salary makes them want to leave their current job.

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Teachers said they deserve a 31 percent raise, from the current U.S. median salary of $65,000 to a desired median salary of $85,000.

The median salary that principals said would be fair was $123,500, up from the $100,000 median salary they reported.

Sixty-two percent of respondents to the Allovue survey, regardless of job title, said they thought a much larger percentage of their district’s budget should be spent on teacher salaries, even if it meant reducing spending elsewhere. Eleven percent said the same for administrator salaries.

Jess Gartner, Allovue’s founder and CEO, serves on the board of trustees for Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit publisher of Education Week. The Education Week newsroom did not participate in the survey project, but is independently reporting on the results.

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