Governors or Superintendents: Who is Worth More?

July 19, 2010 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

News about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s proposal to cap the salaries of district superintendents spread like wildfire late last week. Christie, a Republican overseeing a recession-battered state, has aggressively gone after what he sees as excessive spending across the public sector, and schools have been among his targets.

His announcement last week to target highly-paid school administrators struck a chord in some corners and today Christie’s proposal got a ringing endorsement from editorial writers at the Star-Ledger in Newark.

Christie makes $175,000, less than the salaries of 75 percent of New Jersey’s local supes, according to the Star-Ledger. It seems that local boards in New Jersey have offered especially lucrative contracts to their honchos, regardless of district size or performance, according to the newspaper.

Intuitively, it seems completely out of whack for a district superintendent to make more than the CEO of an entire state. But some of this has to do with the fact that some salaries for governors were set eons ago and don’t get tweaked much. No one has to use a compensation package to get the best “hire” for the governor’s office; those folks self-select by running for the office. While governors and superintendents are public servants, they operate in entirely different markets.

Still, it’s instructive to compare the salaries of the two positions.

In New York, Gov. David Paterson is pulling down $179,000 (last year, he took a 10 percent pay cut) as the state’s chief executive, while Joel Klein, the chancellor of the New York City public schools makes $250,000.

In California, if Arnold Schwarzenegger were taking a salary (he has forgone accepting one since his net worth is valued at somewhere between $100-200 million), he’d make $175,000, while Ramon C. Cortines, the superintendent in Los Angeles Unified, pulls down $250,000 (Cortines voluntarily took a $50,000 pay cut from what his predecessor was earning in the job). In some states, you could certainly argue that being a school superintendent is a more difficult job worthy of more compensation, though I don’t think that is the case currently in California and New York, where both governors have found it next to impossible to govern much of anything lately.

In a small state like Nebraska, Gov. David Heineman makes $105,000 a year. Steve Joel, the superintendent in Lincoln, one of the state’s largest districts, makes $255,000 (that’s his entire compensation package, not just base salary).

What do you think? Do school superintendents—who do very hard, politically bruising, often thankless work—deserve the sort of hefty, six-figure compensation deals that Christie is going after? How should we assign value to those gigs?

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.


School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Get a Strong Start to the New School Year
Get insights and actions from Education Week journalists and expert guests on how to start the new school year on strong footing.
Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
Supporting 21st Century Skills with a Whole-Child Focus
What skills do students need to succeed in the 21st century? Explore the latest strategies to best prepare students for college, career, and life.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

States Some States Want to Lock in Universal Free School Meals as Federal Waivers End
The pandemic-era waivers let students regardless of income get free school meals and drew wide use nationally.
4 min read
Norma Ordonez places a tray of grilled cheese sandwiches into an oven to warm as she prepares take-away lunches for students kept out of class because of the coronavirus at Richard Castro Elementary School early Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in west Denver.
Norma Ordonez places sandwiches into an oven to warm as she prepares take-away lunches for students at Richard Castro Elementary School in Denver in 2020.
David Zalubowski/AP
States Opinion Searching for Common Ground: The Parental-Rights Bill, aka the 'Don’t Say Gay’ Bill
Rick and USC dean Pedro Noguera discuss Florida's law curbing gender and sexuality talk and its impact on students, teachers, and parents.
6 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
States Texas Governor Sparks Backlash With Talk of Rolling Back Free School for Immigrant Kids
Critics assailed Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's idea as “hare-brained” and “cruel.”
Robert T. Garrett, The Dallas Morning News
5 min read
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a news conference in Austin, Texas, on June 8, 2021.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a news conference in Austin, Texas, on June 8, 2021.
Eric Gay/AP
States How Laws on Race, Sexuality Could Clash With Culturally Responsive Teaching
Critical race theory and culturally responsive teaching are not the same thing. But bans of one could impact the other.
7 min read
Illustration of diverse hands being raised.