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

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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