School Administrators Part 1: How school superintendents compare to the chief executives in the Kansas economy

School Administrators Part 1: How school superintendents compare to the chief executives in the Kansas economy

Among the most common questions about Kansas public schools
is the number of administrators and their pay. Critics often say there are too
many administrators and they make too much. That begs the question: compared to
what?
To answer this question, KASB looked at how school district
administrator numbers and salaries compare to all Kansas employees, both public
and private sector. We started with data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s
Bureau of Labor Statistics, specifically the State Occupational Employment and
Wage Estimates for Kansas. The most recent report is from May 2017 (Link).
The BLS estimated the total number of Kansas employees, public and private, was
1,369,110. Those positions are broken into 22 major occupational groups,
including “management occupations” and hundreds of specific occupational titles
within those groups.
We then compared that to data from the Kansas State
Department of Education on school district employees and expenditures.
This is part 1, which will start with school
superintendents, the positions that seem to draw the most public scrutiny.
We compared superintendent data with the BLS position of
chief executive, described as “Determine and formulate policies and provide
overall direction of companies or private and public sector organizations
within guidelines set up by a board of directors or similar governing body.
Plan, direct, or coordinate operational activities at the highest level of
management with the help of subordinate executives and staff managers.”
In other words, superintendents have the same
responsibilities as other chief executives, and their “board of directors” –
the local school board – is looking for the same management qualities as boards
in the private sector or other public sector organization.
Here is what we found.
1.     
On average, Kansas school superintendents
earn less than other chief executives in Kansas, and their salaries have
increased less.
The average annual wage of a Kansas CEO was $170,170 in 2017.
According to KSDE, the average superintendent salary was $113,245 in 2016-2017,
which means the average Kansas CEO makes about 50 percent more than the average
school superintendent.
How have those numbers changed over time? KSDE reports superintendent
salaries
back to 2001. From 2001 to 2017, the Kansas average
superintendent salary increased from $78,662 to $113,245, or 44.0 percent.
According to BLS data for 2001, the average Kansas chief executive salary
increased from $105,140 to $170,170, or 61.8 percent. That means public and
private organizations have placed a much higher value on executive leadership.
It also means Kansas CEO pay across all organizations increased over 40 percent
more than superintendents since 2001.
Certainly, some USD school superintendents make much more
than the average – but many make less. That is characteristic of any average.
Superintendents of much larger districts, with much larger budgets and more
employees, tend to make more. The same is true of executives in the private
sector
.
2.      There are more superintendent positions per
school employee than overall chief executives, but the superintendent/employee ratio
has been falling while the chief executive/employee ratio has been increasing.

The BLS estimated the total number of Kansas employees,
public and private, was 1,369,110 in May 2017. Of that number, 4,210 were chief
executives, or 3.075 per 1,000 employees.
In 2017-18, there were 252 “full time equivalent” school
superintendents for 286 school districts. (Several districts share a
superintendent, and many superintendents are not considered full time because
they hold other duties.) With 69,111 FTE school positions, 252 school
superintendents represent 3.646 positions per 1,000 school district employees,
compared to 3.075 chief executives per 1,000 for all employees in Kansas.
However, the number of total Kansas employees was 1,321,040
in 2001 with 3,950 chief executives, so the ratio of chief executives to all
employees rose slightly from 2.99 in 2001 to 3.075 in 2017. The FTE number of
school employees was 65,150.4 in 2001, with 278.5 superintendents, so the ratio
of superintendents to all employees dropped from 4.275 to 3.646.
In other words, while there are more superintendents per
1,000 school district employees than chief executives per 1,000 total employees
in Kansas, the ratio of superintendents to employees has been dropping while
the ratio of all CEOs to all employees has been rising.
To put it another way, there are about 18.6 percent more
superintendents per employee than overall chief executives, but they make 33.5
percent less in annual salary.

School consolidation would reduce the number of school
superintendents, but it would also likely increase average salaries because
school districts would be larger and executive compensation is highly
correlated with organizational size. It is not clear that spending on
superintendents would decrease. In fact, if school districts were more like the
overall public and private sector, there would be somewhat fewer
superintendents, but they would be paid substantially more.