Cuomo Seeks Cap on School Superintendents’ Pay - NYTimes.com
LBANY — Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey saluted a number of other governors, including Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, last week for making tough decisions in tough economic times.
On Monday, Mr. Christie had one more reason to applaud his counterpart in Albany.
Mr. Cuomo, in his boldest attack yet on what he calls wasteful spending by school districts, introduced legislation to limit superintendents’ pay that would virtually replicate a measure that Mr. Christie imposed in New Jersey.
Mr. Cuomo’s proposal would tie superintendents’ maximum pay to the size of their school districts, with the leaders of New York’s largest districts limited to a salary of $175,000 and those in the smallest limited to $125,000. It would not affect the New York City school system, where the chancellor, Cathleen P. Black, earns $250,000 a year.
The bill was introduced after a month’s worth of sharp words from Mr. Cuomo aimed at school superintendents and their pay. He singled out administrative compensation as one area where districts could find savings as they worked to absorb his proposed $1.5 billion reduction in state school aid, which has drawn criticism from teachers’ unions and education groups.
About one-third of the state’s more than 650 superintendents earn more than $175,000, and Mr. Cuomo said his pay cap would save $15 million.
Mr. Christie’s measure, which he introduced last year, imposes a pay ceiling of $175,000, with case-by-case exceptions permitted only for the largest districts.
That measure, which went into effect on Feb. 7, drew sharp criticism from school officials, and superintendents are fighting it in court.
After Mr. Cuomo’s repeated criticism of school administrators in public appearances since he released his budget a month ago, many superintendents worried that he, too, might pursue a salary cap.
“We must wake up to the new economic reality that government must be more efficient and cut the cost of the bureaucracy,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement on Monday. “Reducing back office overhead, administration, consultants and encouraging consolidations are the best targets to find savings.”
Mr. Cuomo’s proposal drew an immediate rebuke from the New York State Council of School Superintendents, which called the average salary for New York’s superintendents of $163,000 on par with the national average of $160,000.
“As it is now, school districts have found it increasingly difficult to get candidates to take on the job of superintendent,” Robert J. Reidy Jr., the council’s executive director, said in a statement. “A cap would make it much harder.”
Dr. Reidy suggested that Mr. Cuomo was calling for a cap on administrators’ pay to create a “distraction” from the damage that he said proposed school-aid cuts would create for districts.
The $15 million in savings from the pay cap would be 1 percent of the financing reduction Mr. Cuomo has proposed.
The proposal by Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, includes an opt-out provision for local communities, which is one key difference from what Mr. Christie, a Republican, put in place. At the time of annual budget votes, school districts’ voters would be allowed to approve a proposed superintendent’s contract exceeding the cap.
That provision appears aimed at addressing what has been a major argument advanced by school superintendents, which is that some communities — particularly affluent ones — are more than happy to pay high salaries to their superintendents, because the quality of the local school system is why many residents decided to live there.
Mr. Cuomo has at least one ally in his call for limiting superintendents’ pay. Senator Charles J. Fuschillo Jr., a Long Island Republican who has praised Mr. Christie’s pay cap in recent months, introduced his own bill on Monday to limit the salaries not only of superintendents but also of other school administrators. “We have to remember these are taxpayer dollars,” Mr. Fuschillo said. To pay superintendents as much as half a million dollars a year in total compensation, he said, “is absurd.”
Mr. Cuomo’s proposal would take effect district by district as superintendents’ contracts expire.