States

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.

Events

School & District Management Webinar How Pensions Work: Why It Matters for K-12 Education
Panelists explain the fundamentals of teacher pension finances — how they are paid for, what drives their costs, and their impact on K-12 education.
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.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
Strategies for Incorporating SEL into Curriculum
Empower students to thrive. Learn how to integrate powerful social-emotional learning (SEL) strategies into the classroom.
Content provided by Be GLAD
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.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Leadership in Education: Building Collaborative Teams and Driving Innovation
Learn strategies to build strong teams, foster innovation, & drive student success.
Content provided by Follett Learning

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 Does a Ten Commandments Display in Classrooms Violate the Constitution?
Louisiana is poised to become the first state to require all schools to post the Ten Commandments in classrooms.
7 min read
Human hand holding a magnifying glass over open holy bible book of Exodus verses for Ten Commandments, top view
Marinela Malcheva/iStock/Getty
States Q&A 'Politics Does Not Belong in Education,' Says a Departing State Schools Chief
Improving student outcomes requires finding common ground, says Missouri's long-serving education commissioner, Margie Vandeven.
9 min read
Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven talks to students participating in Future Farmers of America during an event in February 2024, in Jefferson City, Missouri.
Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven talks to students participating in Future Farmers of America during an event in February 2024, in Jefferson City, Mo. Vandeven is stepping down from her position after more than eight years on the job.
Courtesy of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
States Should Voters Decide What Schools Teach?
Californians may vote to require a new high school finance course. Critics argue it sets a bad precedent.
6 min read
A man stands behind a row of electronic voting machines covered with yellow privacy shields as he uses a touch screen to vote.
A lone voter casts his ballot for Super Tuesday at a polling station in the Van Nuys section of Los Angeles on March 5, 2024.
Richard Vogel/AP
States Is Bipartisan Education Policy Still Possible?
It's still possible to forge cross-party education policy coalitions, advocates said.
5 min read
Image of a small U.S. flag in a pencil case.
iStock/Getty