Talk about adding salt to the wound, especially since Austin was just rated the “least affordable U.S. city for minimum-wage workers.”
Last month, the Austin Independent School District hired a new superintendent, and that official’s starting salary has just been revealed. For her first year, she’ll rake-in a whopping $334,000—more than double what the Texas governor earns and more than her predecessor’s pay ($310,958). In addition, she’ll also receive generous benefits, like a $750-per-month car allowance.
Incredibly, Austin ISD is paying its superintendent more even while it is serving the public less. According to the district’s FY 2021 Preliminary Budget (pg. 34):
“After decades of enrollment growth, AISD has experienced a decrease in enrollment since FY 2012-13, and according to the demographer, the trend can be expected to continue into the future. This is due to a number of factors, including: Affordability issues in general, and specifically a drop in affordable housing…” [Emphasis mine.]
As the report rightly notes, affordability is a major reason why students are leaving. Families simply can’t afford the high cost of living—which the district itself is making worse. Consider that from 2014 to 2018, Austin ISD’s property tax levy grew by more than 56%, sending tax bills skyrocketing. Simultaneously, its student enrollment shrank by 5.4%.
There’s a great imbalance between superintendent pay in Austin ISD (and elsewhere) versus the services provided to the public. This inequity needs to be addressed, either by way of voluntary reform or state legislation. Relatedly, the Legislature attempted to get a handle on soaring superintendent salaries last session but no bills made it across the finish line (see HB 1740, HB 3102, HB 4627, SB 721, and SB 723).
Texas has long overpaid its public school superintendents, especially when compared to their national counterparts. But the public can no longer afford to pay higher taxes for the salaries of an elite few. Common-sense changes are sorely needed. Particularly in districts where administrative salaries are going up, up, up and student enrollment is going down, down, down.