Supply, demand push salaries higher
by Robert F. Hall and Max E. Pierson
Max Pierson and Robert Hall are professors of Educational Administration at Western
Recent surveys leave no doubt that the supply of experienced, school administrators is
soon to be at an all-time low. Approximately 40 percent of current superintendents say
they will retire in the next five years.
This ever-decreasing supply coupled with stable demand will result in significantly
higher salaries for experienced administrators, as well as new, inexperienced
administrators being hired for the same or higher salary earned by retiring
administrators. And when downstate districts fail to increase salaries to match those in
suburban Chicago, they will face the reality of a migration of experienced school
administrators to the Northeast region of the state.
These are just a sample of the conclusions drawn from the seventh annual survey of
superintendents and principals to examine salary trends in a job market that is really
statewide and, in many cases, national in scope.
The information concerning superintendent and principal salaries was developed from
unaudited information reported by school districts to the Illinois State Board of
Education (ISBE) on the Teachers Service Record for fall 2001. The ISBE Department
of Research and Policy gathered the information, which was compiled and analyzed by staff
of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs and Department of Educational Administration
and Supervision, Western Illinois University.
The following information should help school boards determine "fair"
increases for incumbent school administrators or guide those boards forced to seek a new
This year, as last, the superintendent earning the highest reported salary of $238,546
was a high school district superintendent in the Northeast region of the state. Again, the
Northeast region paid the highest salaries in all categories of district: high school,
elementary and unit. The Northeast region also had the highest percentage of increase in
high school superintendent salaries at 8 percent and an actual dollar increase in the mean
The largest percentage in increase in elementary superintendent salaries came in the
Southeast region at 20.3 percent. However, the largest actual dollar increase occurred in
the East Central region with an increase of $16,046. The largest percent increase and the
greatest increase in dollars for salaries of unit district superintendents (8.7 percent
and $7,820, respectively) occurred in the Southwest region.
It should be noted that the range of the means for unit district superintendents has
fallen from $30,000 in 2000-01 to $28,234 in 2001-02, a drop of $1,766. This same
statistic for elementary districts has remained virtually the same at $54,405 in 2000-01
and $54,627 in 2001-02. In high school districts, the range of the means increased
dramatically from $58,074 in 2000-01 to $69,340 in 2001-02.
This indicates that the market for unit district superintendents has become more
competitive statewide, while the market for high school superintendents is still a
regional market. Also, high school superintendents are rewarded greatly by moving to the
It should be noted that the largest decline in high school superintendent mean salaries
occurred in the Southwest, with a loss of 11.3 percent and $12,971. Since the sample size
of four is so small, the retirement of one highly paid superintendent could have made a
Finally, while the range of salaries for superintendents in the state varies from a low
of $54,946 to a high of $238,546, the average salary for all superintendents is $110,135,
an increase of $7,523 from $102,612 in 2000-2001. This average includes all types and all
sizes of districts.
First, it should be noted that the salaries quoted this year are based on a sample of
the salaries of 1,489 principals compared to 604 principals in last year' s survey.
There are approximately 3,900 building principals in the state. In all regions, the sample
size is larger than last year, and this could contribute to some of the changes noted in
high, low and average salaries.
The average salary for all principals ranged from $71,040 in the East Central region to
$90,245 in the Northeast region. Compared to last year, the average salary in the East
Central region increased by $8,324 and the average salary in the Northeast region
increased by $3,333. The average elementary principal salary has increased by $5,089,
while the average junior high/middle school and high school principal salaries have
increased by $4,580 and $6,476, respectively.
The highest overall salary percentage increases were noted in the East Central region
with the reported average salary for elementary school principals increasing 45.5 percent.
It should be noted that the sample size for the East Central region is 120 this year,
compared to 34 a year ago. This could account for the large percentage increase.
The second highest reported increase was in the Southeast region, where high school and
middle school principal salaries increased by a reported 10.7 percent and 10 percent,
respectively. In the Northeast region, which has traditionally had the highest reported
salaries, high school principal salaries were up 4.5 percent, compared to .6 percent last
year. Middle school principal salaries were up 4.7 percent.
As has been true for the past six years, high school principals on the average still
make more than middle school principals, who make more than elementary school principals.
The highest reported salaries for high school principals ranged from $191,650 (compared to
$138,626 last year) in the Northeast region to $103,696 in the Northwest region. It should
be noted that this is the first time the highest reported salary for high school
principals has exceeded $100,000 in all six regions.
For middle school principals, the highest reported salaries ranged from $125,274 in the
East Central region to $79,938 in the Southwest. This is the first year that the highest
reported junior high/middle school principal salary was not in the Northeast.
Among elementary school principals, the highest reported salaries ranged from $132,103
in the Northeast to $91,283 in the Southwest. Average salaries for high school and middle
school principals are highest in the Northeast. But surprisingly, the highest average
salary for elementary principals is in the East Central region.
It would appear that downstate school districts are making great efforts to increase
principal salaries to be competitive with suburban Chicago.
Response rate/statistical methodology
The Teacher Service Record data aggregates the results of 419 district reports,
out of 891 possible districts, for a response rate of 47 percent. Some districts have not
submitted the report yet because of unresolved salary disputes, some are still in transit
from the regional offices, and no part-time or interim superintendents' salaries are
Only districts that reported their data electronically were used in the study. This
resulted in all principals' salaries and all superintendents' salaries from the
reporting districts being used. However, the number of districts using electronic
reporting has grown so large that it gives a good sample of salary information throughout
Data from the regions, while not complete, appear to be representative. The salary data
includes numbers from Cook County, but no data from Chicago Public Schools are
contained in this report. The data were sorted by region and district type before the
range and mean were calculated.
For purposes of the survey, salary is defined "to include any compensation you
would normally anticipate reporting as earnings to the Teachers' Retirement System,
commonly referred to as TRS Salary.'" Respondents were asked to include an
estimate of coaching stipends or extra duty pay that remains undetermined at the time the
report was completed. They also were asked to report only whole dollar amounts.
Editor's note: The authors thank Connie Wise and the staff of the ISBE Department
of Research and Policy and recognize the contributions of Lori Sutton of the Illinois
Institute for Rural Affairs for her assistance in analyzing the data from ISBE.
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