Perhaps at an annual salary of $179,000, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is a bargain. On the other hand, perhaps more than a few of the state’s public school superintendent’s salaries are over-the-top inflated. At least that’s what comes to mind upon hearing what the hamlet of Syosset on Long Island is paying its school chief, Carole G. Hankin: $386,868. Her total package including benefits, expense accounts and other comp: $506,000.
Singled out by Cuomo in his budget address as an example of excess in many school districts, Hankin earned more than any other school superintendent in the state. According to the New York Times, Cuomo’s remarks set the tone for his proposed reduction in local school aid by $2.5 billion, to help balance the state’s budget deficit.
“I understand that they sometimes have to manage budgets, and sometimes the budgets are difficult,” he said. “But why they get paid more than the governor of the state I really don’t understand.”
Currently over 40 percent of public school superintendents make more than $200,000 per year in salary and benefits, and there is no state regulation on how much they can earn.
While state attorney general, school superintendents caught Coumo’s attention, with a practice many were involved with, called double-dipping. While retired and collecting substantial pension checks, many superintendents continued to work in other school districts, and earning large salaries.
Given the current finances of the state, and local school districts, Cuomo said that the practice was unaffordable and just plain wrong.
New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie is also trying to make sense of the outsized salaries paid to public school administrators in the Garden State. He recently set a cap on the salaries of most of the state’s medium-sized school districts at $175,000 – the same salary paid to the governor. The cap, which triggered a lawsuit by the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, would require over 70 percent of the superintendents to take a pay cut.
School superintendents don’t see the issue the same way as state officials and taxpayers.
Robert J. Lowry, Jr., the deputy director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents said, “The state and the schools are facing difficult times that ultimately require strong leadership. Superintendents are trying to provide that leadership, and in many districts, they have passed up raises or made other concessions to save money for their districts and also to set an example.”