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Salary Increases Stall

Top administrators don’t see the kind of salary increases they did just a year ago.

Even school administrators are feeling the pinch of the economic recession. While superintendents and business and instructional directors in school districts are still seeing salary increases on average, the percentage increases over last year have been reduced, according to “Salaries and Wages Paid Professional and Support Personnel in Public Schools, 2009-2010,” a salary report that is published annually by Educational Research Service.

Salaries, which account for more than 70 percent of some school budgets, have become a natural target as school boards and superintendents try to avoid classroom cuts. In public school districts nationwide, across-the-board cuts have been made in teacher and administrator salaries, as well as in health insurance benefits. And while many administrator positions have been cut in recent years, the remaining administrators are taking on mounting workloads.

For example, superintendents only saw a 2.6 percent increase in salary in 2009-2010 compared to 2008-2009. However, the same group saw a 4.9 percent increase in salary in 2008-2009 over 2007-2008. In fact, superintendents saw percentage increases in salary every year from 2004- 2005 until 2008-2009, when increases dipped to only 4.9 percent over the previous year. “We expected to see a drop, and I was even expecting the percentage increases to be a little lower [or bigger drop] because of the economy [and media reports], but that’s not scientific at all,” says Christopher Licciardi, an issues analyst in the survey research department at Educational Research Service. “We do research to help districts plan their budgets in future years.”

In his department, Licciardi says, ERS analysts received many calls this past year from administrators asking how they could work more efficiently and whether consolidation would help to reduce the rate of cost increases. Thus, schools wanted to decrease their costs, he says. Licciardi adds that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the dip in the stock market in 2003-2004 also affected salaries.

From 2000-2001 until 2004-2005, superintendents saw a bit of a roller coaster ride in percentage increases in salary. Superintendents in the 2003-2004 year even saw a dip, as salaries decreased by 0.5 percent compared to the previous year. In another example, business and finance directors, on average, saw a 1.7 percent increase in salary this year over last year, but had seen a 2.2 percent increase in salary in 2008-2009 over 2007- 2008.

But business directors have seen a roller coaster in percentage increases over the years since 2000-2001. Even instructional services directors saw a 1.6 percent salary increase on average over last year compared to a 2.6 percent salary increase from 2007-2008 to 2008-2009. They saw the same roller coaster ride in percentage increases since 2000-2001 and saw a dip in 2001- 2002 as their salaries decreased by 0.4 percent compared to the previous year.

Interestingly, technology directors saw a larger percentage increase in salary over the last year. This year, their percentage increase was 3 percent, compared to only 2.1 percent from 2007-2008 to 2008-2009. Licciardi says this could be due to the increased focus on technology in schools and the increasingly competitive market for technology directors.

Guidance counselors and librarians also earned a slightly higher percentage increase in 2009-2010 compared to last year. A 2.6 percent increase in average salaries was reported for librarians this year over last year, as compared to a 1.8 percent increase in 2008-2009 over 2007-2008. Again, both positions have seen a roller coaster ride in percentage increases since 2000-2001.