NJ superintendent salary cap not saving money, study finds
In place since 2011, there's a cap on how much a schools superintendent can earn in New Jersey. It was promoted, in part, as to way to get a handle on education costs and steer more funding toward the classroom.
But a new analysis, from public policy assistant professor Michael Hayes at Rutgers University-Camden, suggests the salary cap likely hasn't helped at all.
In fact, it may have done more harm than good.
"I find no evidence of any reductions in education expenditures or administration costs," said Hayes, who presented his findings to University members on Friday.
Hayes analyzed school budget data from 2004 to 2014 to see if implementation of the cap caused a difference in spending between districts who had a superintendent with an expiring contract, and districts who did not.
"The challenge, though is that you're not going to save any money by just restricting the salary of one employee," Hayes said of the superintendent position, which is essentially the CEO of a school district. "It would be a drop in the bucket."
Hayes' findings, instead, found the salary cap may have led to the unintended consequence of superintendent turnover.
The salary for a superintendent is capped anywhere from $125,000 to $175,000, depending on the district's enrollment size. Limiting pay to $155,000 in a district where the average salary is over $192,000, for example, may force an administrator to look elsewhere when the next contract is up in the air.
According to Hayes' findings, the likelihood of superintendent turnover increased by about 16 percent in New Jersey school districts that were directly impacted by the cap in its first year.
The largest effects were recorded in school districts with a female superintendent, districts located out of the southern New Jersey region, and those in the poorest communities.
"You have other states — Pennsylvania and Delaware — that could be potentially incentivizing talented superintendents from New Jersey to move to positions in those states," Hayes said.
Hayes suggested the cap is more of a burden on school districts, rather than a cost saver.
"It just restricts' school boards' ability to make decisions on their own," he said.
Legislation approved by the full state Senate in February, and awaiting action in the Assembly, would prohibit the state from regulating the maximum amount a school district may pay its superintendent.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at email@example.com.