Impact of Superintendent Salary Caps in North Jersey

Check out today’s Record for a great analysis of the impact of the publicly-applauded salary caps on NJ’s school superintendents. This dynamic is most striking in North Jersey, where salaries are higher and New York State, fleetingly free of caps, is just a short commute away. (NY Gov. Cuomo is contemplating a superintendent salary cap right now.) According to the Record, “almost half of the 97 North Jersey districts cut the job’s pay – in one case by $76,000” and “at least 46 districts in Bergen and Passaic counties” have lost superintendents to more lucrative positions.

On the other hand, salary costs for superintendents in North Jersey have decreased by $900K, although New Jersey School Boards Association and New Jersey School Administrators Association deplore the caps.

The Record records the main worry of school boards and school district central offices:
In 16 districts in North Jersey, the superintendent was not the highest-paid employee, and in several cases made $50,000 less than people under their supervision. (About half of those districts had part-time or acting superintendents.) Some critics of the cap say that principals and other administrators will no longer covet the top job because they can make more where they are, and have tenure.
In other words, you could have a principal of a large high school or a seasoned supervisor (both members of bargaining units and, thus, not subject to salary caps imposed by the State) making more money than his or her boss. Thus, a double-domino effect: first, successful administrators may eschew a promotion to a school district’s top position because, after all, who wants that grief without relative compensation? Second,  school boards may start digging in their heels at contract negotiating time and demanding that principal/director/supervisor salaries stay below that of the school superintendent.  Some warn that this is all a conspiracy to lower teacher salaries.

Much of this is hyperbole. The primary brake on teacher salaries isn’t the superintendent caps but the 2% cap on school district budget increases. In pre-2% cap days, typical annual salary increases for teachers ran about 4.5%; post-cap, it’s just over 2%. But the threat of a diminishing pool of superintendents and pressure to lower  principal/director/supervisor salaries is real, as more and more boards face a scenario where they're approving only token increases for superintendents.  What, wonder some, is the incentive to take on the 24/7 job of school leader?