September/October 2019

National Salary Trends Mirror Illinois’

By Theresa Kelly Gegen

AASA, the School Superintendents Association, conducts an annual survey tracking “the demographics, salary, benefits and other elements of the employment contracts of school superintendents throughout the country.”

Its most recent findings noted “the median base salary distributed by district enrollment ranged from $96,750/$94,000 (male/female) for the smallest districts to $260,000/$259,892 (male/female) for superintendents serving in the largest enrollment school districts. All positions, from superintendent to teacher, show that salaries increase relative to district enrollment size as well as slight increases over previous years.”

AASA’s survey had 1,433 responses representing all 50 states; 91 of those responses, the most of any state, came from Illinois. Two years ago, the Journal’s report on state administrator salaries included an analysis of salaries by gender. With 2016 data, male superintendents continue to outnumbered female superintendents 646-233. A female had the highest superintendent salary and the average salary for females was, slightly, higher than for males. That same year, the median salary for males increased by $2,385 and the median salary for females decreased by $2,601.

Nationally, the most recent statistics from the AASA survey bear out the Illinois data. Male respondents outnumber female 1,068 to 323 and “little discernible difference between genders in reported salaries.”

These results, plus a look at systems of evaluation and examinations of benefits, add depth to AASA’s salary analysis, which presents base salary for superintendents pegged to the number of students in their districts, and compares it to building administrators and teachers. 

Data from other states provide a few notable comparisons to Illinois. Note that each state has different requirements for attaining the position of superintendent, as well as for what data is reported and collected.

For 2017-2018 superintendent salaries, the Texas Education Agency lists 1,027 traditional school district superintendents, with student populations ranging from 12 to 214,175. Taking away the part-time superintendents leaves 941, with an average base salary of $142,852. Texas’ full-time superintendents at the 90th percentile earn $229,975; at the 50th percentile earn $123,000; $100,409 at the 25th and $90,000 at the 10th percentiles. 

In New Jersey, a law passed in Summer 2019 removed a $191,584 salary cap for most school superintendents. The law imposes no salary limit but sets guidelines to manage benefits and bonuses. 

Like Illinois, the California Department of Education offers statistics based on type and size. Average salaries for California elementary school districts range from $124,686 for the smallest districts (fewer than 1,000 students) to $224,581 for the largest (greater than 5,000 students). California high school superintendents averaged $138,074 for small and $241,221 for large. Unified (K-12) district superintendents in California average $136,125 for the smallest range (under 1,500 students) to $275,796 for the largest (over 20,000 students).
Pennsylvania’s 2017-2018 full-time superintendent salaries range from a low of $75,000 to a high of $319,749. Pennsylvania also lists salary per student; these range from about $2 (in Philadelphia, by far the state’s largest district in terms of population) to over $400 (one of the state’s smallest districts).

As the authors note in the Journal’s Illinois administrative salaries pieces, there are many ways to look at these numbers and apply for consideration those that are most applicable and relevant to your local district’s situation.