EDITORIAL: School boards must rein in administrator pay

Even in a financial crisis, highest-paid school officials are getting raises
Oliver Robinson, superintendent, Shenendehowa Central School District
Oliver Robinson, superintendent, Shenendehowa Central School District

If you google “Daily Gazette administrator salaries,” one of the headlines that comes up will be one that says, “School administrator pay continues to rise.”

That’s not the headline that topped our article earlier this week about school administrator raises topping 2% in a tough budget year.

It’s a headline from two years ago.

The news that should bother taxpayers isn’t just that school administrator salaries are rising this year while the state is in a financial crisis. It’s that administrator salaries have been rising for years, that they’ve been too high for too long, and that despite knowing all this, your elected school board members still aren’t doing anything to get the pay in line.

The story that appeared earlier this week noted that the salary and compensation for the region’s top-paid school administrators was going up more than 2% this year.

That’s happening even as school districts are battling a potentially significant drop in state aid due to the coronavirus crisis’ impact on state revenue. As a result of the threat to state aid, districts are being forced to scale back on programs and lay off teachers and other staff to balance their budgets.

The impact of the covid crisis won’t necessarily end after one budget season, either.

Boards could take two or three years or more to recoup their losses and hire back the teachers and restore programs, as some have dipped into fund balances or borrowed against future budgets to make the numbers on the balance sheet match this year.

It’s clear that one of the factors that’s putting school boards in such a financial bind is the disproportionate amount of their budgets they have to allocate to paying superintendents and other top school officials — taxpayer-paid employees who don’t spend one second of their time in your child’s classroom.

According to Zach Matson’s article on Tuesday, the average superintendent salary in the seven-county region including Schenectady, Saratoga and Albany counties, is up to $168,500, an increase of 2.3%. The salaries and total compensation for all top-paid administrators, including assistant superintendents, school principals and other district officials, are also scheduled to rise about 2.3% next year.

When the people who are paying these salaries are losing their jobs, being furloughed or earning far less than these public officials, it’s unacceptable that school boards continue to offer such out-of-place salaries — and even more unacceptable that they’re doing it while we’re all reeling financially from this crisis.

These administrators wouldn’t be able to demand such salaries if school boards weren’t willing to get into bidding wars to get them. 

At some point, boards are going to have to agree to set some kind of limit on school administrator compensation and refuse to give raises on salaries that are already too high.

They’re not going to do it on their own. They need the support of the governor, the state Legislature, the state school boards association, the state school administrators association and voters to rein in these salaries.

That support also might include allowing districts to merge, or for small districts to reduce or share administrators to save money.

If the dollar figures alone don’t compel you to speak up, maybe that classroom without a teacher in it next year might do it.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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