New Jersey lawmakers are taking steps to eliminate the cap on school superintendent salaries and undo one of former Gov. Chris Christie’s most controversial education policies.
NJ.com reports that the state Assembly Education Committee has unanimously approved a bill removing the salary limits. Supporters of the change say the $191,584-a-year cap on superintendent compensation has harmed schools in the state by causing executives to leave New Jersey in search of higher pay.
If passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Phil Murphy, the bill would bar the state Department of Education from setting maximum salaries for superintendents.
In 2011, Christie imposed what was then a $175,000 cap to rein in what he characterized as high salaries and generous perks in superintendent contracts. Several superintendents resigned rather than accept a pay cut or took jobs in nearby states such as Pennsylvania or New York. And some districts were left with a revolving door of interim superintendents before finding a qualified long-term replacement.
Christie’s administration raised the maximum base pay to $191,584 in 2017 with incentives to earn more if school chiefs stay in the same district.
The average salary for New Jersey school superintendents was $155,631 in the 2017-18 school year. More than 30 collected more than $200,000 in base pay, despite the salary cap. The law includes exemptions for charter schools, districts with career and technical schools, schools for special education students and districts with more than 10,000 students.
Superintendents who are subject to the cap also are eligible for extra pay if they have a high school in their district, stay in the same district for multiple contracts or meet goals for merit pay.
But lawmakers say districts struggle to recruit and retain superintendents who pursue higher-paying posts elsewhere.S uperintendents are leaving New Jersey and receiving $40,000 to $80,000 raises, says Assemblyman Ralph Caputo.
A Rutgers-Camden study of school spending data from 2004 to 2014 found a 0.5% reduction in total spending and 1.4% decrease in administrative costs after the compensation cap was put into place. The study also found that superintendents were about 16 percent more likely to leave their jobs.
Separately, the New Jersey School Board’s Association said that nearly 100 superintendents who resigned by February 2014 cited the salary cap as a factor.