In light of the recent statewide budget cuts, we need to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being spent on significant education programs that aim to build a foundation for our children’s futures and pave the way for them to grow to be the leaders they are meant to become as adults. Unfortunately, a significant portion of the education money in New Jersey is spent not in the classroom, but on the salaries of administrators.
In fact, according to the New Jersey Department of Education more than 725 school administrators are making more than $141,000 annually, including nearly 60 school superintendents drawing annual salaries of $200,000 or more.
A prime example of this misuse and waste recently took place in a school district where it was reported an assistant superintendent was paid $350 a day for more than 50 days in addition to an annual salary of $156,000 to fill in for the district’s superintendent who was on medical leave. While on leave, the superintendent continued to collect his full $208,000 annual salary. This is a clear case of abuse of tax dollars that should be designated for education and we cannot allow these types of instances to continue to occur in the future.
Another case of this type of abuse occurred in a different school district where a superintendent making a $215,000 a year salary received a doctoral diploma from an unaccredited online university. He received tuition reimbursements and a raise in salary for having a non-accredited degree that was funded by taxpayer dollars. This is clearly another instance of a school administrator taking advantage of local taxpayers.
In addition, an instance of an excessive school administrator salary occurred when a former superintendent was originally promised a $741,000 retirement package before the state challenged the exorbitant severance deal. After reaching a settlement with the Department of Education, this high paid administrator received a $556,290 severance payout. Such exorbitant salaries are, in part, to blame for the high cost of property taxes in New Jersey. It is clear that we have to begin bringing costs down at all levels of government. With aid to schools accounting for nearly 20 percent of the state’s budget, a good place to start would be to place a cap on school administrator salaries.
In light of these recent situations, I have introduced Assembly Bill 2576 that would limit the compensation of school district employees, other than teachers, to $5,000 less than the salary of the Commissioner of Education. Under the bill, school administrator salaries would be capped at $136,000 since the commissioner’s current salary is $141,000 annually.
This legislation is the first step in fixing this abused area in our education system. It is evident that the practice of excessive school administration salaries must come to an end in New Jersey. It is a blatant misuse of taxpayer dollars that could be dedicated to improving the education of young people instead of lining the pockets of school administrators. I urge my colleagues in the Legislature to support this bill and help to get New Jersey back on the right track to responsible spending.
Assemblyman Dave Rible