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State Board of Education members bemoan “startling” low pay for N.C. school administrators

administrator-payFaced with stark numbers on the relatively low pay for school administrators in North Carolina, members of the State Board of Education on Wednesday urged swift action from state lawmakers.

As Policy Watch reported last week, legislators in a joint study committee are mulling a face-lift for the state’s much-criticized system of administrator pay.

Administration advocates point out that principal and assistant principal pay ranks below nearly every state in the U.S., and that in some bizarre cases, the system even pays assistant principals less than some of the teachers they oversee.

“These facts are startling,” said board member Becky Taylor. “I’m wondering how there are any assistant principals.”

One proposal before the legislature’s study committee would completely scrap the state’s salary schedule for school administrators. Under that proposal, the state would set aside funding grants for districts to negotiate administrator salaries, rather than relying on a state-mandated salary schedule based on experience and education.

But the recommendation earned a speedy snub from a panel of local district superintendents and administration advocates last week.

Of those superintendents, Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Frank Till Jr. told Policy Watch that he worried the panel’s proposal could lead to inequities in administrator pay across the state.

“Board members could suddenly start negotiating salaries with their friends,” Till said. “It would be about who you know and what you know. It’s just a slippery slope that you don’t want to go down.”

State board members on Wednesday did not discuss their preferred approach to that conflict, but expressed optimism that state lawmakers are aware of the problem.

“I think the General Assembly is going to be very serious about correcting this,” said State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey. “We need top people leading the schools in North Carolina.”

The legislative study committee is expected to meet twice more before putting forth recommendations to the full legislature by the end of the year.

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