Thursday, March 13, 2003


School superintendents in Nebraska were paid nearly $19.2 million as a group in the 2001-02 school year, compared to $14.4 million nine years before. That's a cumulative increase of 33 percent. Figures are the most recent ones available from the State Education Department's finance website.

That's a statistic that's worth some study in the light of Nebraska's projected budget shortfall of nearly $700 million.

A March 9 article in the Chicago Tribune on superintendent pay reported that despite declining student performance in their districts, budget woes, deficit spending, and pay cuts and job losses among the ranks of teachers and other school staff, about one-fourth of Illinois superintendents as a group saw their earnings rise 10 percent or more in the past year.

The phenomenon of school boards who vote their superintendents 20 percent raises in each of their last few years of service, in order to get their pension basis up, was perceived as a key reason for the paradox.

The difficulty is, although local taxpayers pay the superintendent's salary, the taxpayers of the entire state foot the bill for the inflated pensions that those pay increases provide. It can amount to tens of thousands of dollars per year more for the better-paid superintendents.

Also factors are non-salary expenses for superintendents such as tax-sheltered annuities, taxpayer-financed contributions to retirement plans, car and housing allowances, and payouts for hundreds of unused sick days.

The question is: can schools afford to keep up the "super pay" in these less-than-super budget days?

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