A Dallas Lawmaker Wants to Put Texas Superintendents' Sky-High Salaries to Voters

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Stefani Carter
When Mike Miles was hired last year as superintendent of Dallas ISD, he was rewarded handsomely. His base salary of $300,000 per year put him near the top of the list of the state's highest-paid superintendents. Meet all the metrics for his possible $200,000 annual bonus, and his place at the top of the list will be secure.

There's an argument to be made that he deserves it. He oversees the second largest school system in the state. He's responsible for educating nearly 160,000 children and turning around a problem-plagued district. Plus, his base salary is 10 percent less than that of his predecessor, Michael Hinojosa.

Making that argument for other highly paid superintendents in Texas is more difficult. Last year, there were 30 superintendents making $250,000 or more, according to data compiled by the Texas Tribune. A few of those -- Houston, Austin, Fort Worth, Northside (San Antonio) ISD -- had enrollments at least approaching 100,000 students. But others do not.

The poster child for exorbitantly compensated superintendents, at least until he retired last year, was Beaumont ISD's Carrol Thomas. Despite Beaumont's relatively paltry 20,000 students, Thomas managed to become the state's highest-paid superintendent, pulling in $347,834 for the 2011-12 school year, largely thanks to raises built into his contract.

Salaries like Thomas' were a source of controversy during the 2011 legislative session and look to be a topic of conversation once again, and state Rep. Stefani Carter, R-Dallas, is looking to have her voice heard.

Carter filed a bill Tuesday that would put superintendents' raises, currently the exclusive purview of a district's board of trustees, in the hands of voters. Trustees would still recommend the raise, but the increase, clearly spelled out in dollar figures and a percentage, would be put to voters during the next election of trustees.

Seems like a commonsense reform, but it also seems liable to handcuff districts looking for top-level talent. Like it or not, the market for big-time superintendents is more like that for CEOs than rank-and-file educators. They'll likely be wary of getting into a situation in which their salary is effectively capped, since it's hard to imagine voters going for a proposal to increase the salary of a public servant who already makes several times what they do.

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11 comments
WatchingSouthDetroit
WatchingSouthDetroit

This is long overdue - it is hard to take people who gripe about not enough money going to education when so much is spent on administrator salaries.  It is hard to take when teachers have to spend their own money on supplies or when classes are overcrowded while Mike Miles and his cronies are sucking up taxpayer dollars for themselves.

gollyrojer
gollyrojer

it's hard to imagine voters going for a proposal to increase the salary of a public servant who already makes several times what they do.

Well then, let's jack the salary of a public servant who does a perfectly ordinary, undemanding job down to the level of salary it really deserves.

titusgroan
titusgroan

Typical school reform in Texas - the assumption that two stupid ideas make a smart one.

Handcuffing trustees is not necessary, because voters already have mechanisms to hold them accountable.  Ask the voters of District 3, they seem to get this.

bamboozl1ed
bamboozl1ed

Ha, they always use old pictures, some 20 or 30 years old. She should update her picture, though. She is so cute. I think this bill is OK... To address Guesty's question, many superintendents were asking for more education funding (which they need) while also taking pay increases. I think it happens a lot in smaller districts, where the salary is astronomical compared to the size of the district. This bill may not pass but it means, if anything, that superintendents in Texas better think twice about increasing their salaries in the midst of cutting classroom dollars. Repeat after me. We love our superintendents, even those who occasionally overpay themselves, but we need more money to CLASSROOMS!

Guesty
Guesty

Voters don't get to decide the pay of any other government employees, why start with school board superintendents?  There are very few, their pay is public knowledge and widely reported, and voters already have input through their board of trustees.  I think it should be enough that the public get the opportunity to comment on a contract before it is signed (I don't know whether that right exists now, but it should).

In the grand scheme, this is the type of "reform" that is only a smoke screen.  Superintendent pay is a rounding error on the budget of every school district, no matter how dysfunctional.  This change will do nothing to improve schools or make any meaningful difference in their budgets, and might scare away talent.  But it's red meat for the Tea Party, teachers, and anyone who thinks no one in government should make six figures.  Its the type of risk-free proposal that does nothing but raise a politician's profile.          

John1073
John1073

We already have a say in these salaries. It's called getting off your lazy butt and voting for the school board. Carter should have ran for school board if she was so concerned instead of wasting space in the TX Legislature.

Anon
Anon

If voters don't like decisions made by a school board they already have regular opportunities to make changes. Carter is just pandering to her Tea Party base again.

MiddleAgedMan
MiddleAgedMan

Voters should have some input on these often ridiculous salaries. Years ago upon his retirement it was revealed that Mesquite ISD sup Ralph Poteet was raking in more than the head of the Los Angeles county/unified district. He was unavailable for comment as he was vacationing in China, likely before returning to "consult" for MISD. I think it appropriate Poteet HS mascot is known as the Pirates. He certainly got his loot.

Guesty
Guesty

@bamboozl1ed Superintendents don't increase their own salaries, the elected members of school boards decide how much a superintendent makes.  I don't think many could justify raises, particularly during these lean times in education, but school boards should be taking care of that.  It would be terribly inefficient to require a public vote every time the board hires a new superintendent or reworks the current superintendent's contract.  

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@Guesty I have to admit that the pay seems fairly modest, Mike Miles might get too much if he hits those performance bonuses.  Though if someone could really make DISD hum, that would be worth $500k

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