Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

School News

June 17, 2011

School superintendent pay to come under scrutiny

INDIANAPOLIS —  

 Indiana lawmakers who changed the way the state’s public school teachers are paid are now turning their attention to how top school administrators are compensated.

The pay and benefit packages of the state’s 291 school superintendents will come under scrutiny this summer by a legislative study committee also charged with looking at a plan to cap superintendents’ salaries and limit their perks.

In doing so, Indiana joins a growing number of states, including Illinois, New Jersey, and New York, taking a closer look at how local school boards use taxpayer dollars to compensate school superintendents. Those states are exploring or employing several options, from capping salaries at or below what the governor makes to linking salaries to district size.

Whether local school boards in Indiana — under pressure to cut costs due to declining state revenues — will welcome the state’s intervention remains to be seen.

“Some may see it as a blessing and some will see it as a curse,” said state Rep. Robert Behning, the influential Republican chairman of the House Education Committee. “Nobody likes to have their ability to determine their destiny taken over by another body.”

Behning and other state legislators who pushed for the compensation review note that Indiana spent more than $32.9 million on superintendent salaries last school year. That doesn’t include benefits and other perks like housing and car allowances.

Those legislators are unhappy about a $1 million retirement package that a township school board in Indianapolis negotiated with its superintendent before he retired last December.

But they also contend that compensation packages offered to superintendents by local school boards across the state — including salaries ranging from $29,000 to $272,000 — are arbitrary and have little correlation to the size of the school districts or the success of their students.

“It’s out of control,” said State Sen. Jim Banks, a freshman Republican from Columbia City who pushed for the compensation review during the legislative session that ended in April.

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