2007 Principal Salary Survey
Principals’ Salaries Continue to Fall Behind Cost of Living
Although principals’ and assistant principals’ salaries continue to rise, they still do not match the consumer price index (CPI), according to a new report from Educational Research Service (ERS).
In terms of cumulative gains, principal and assistant principal salaries have increased by 11.9%, on average, from 2001–02 through 2006–07. In comparison, the CPI increased by 13.8% over the same five-year period. The CPI is the Department of Labor’s measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services and is typically used to gauge increases in the cost of living.
To put this in terms of real dollar values, the 2001–02 reported average salaries for junior high/middle school principals ($78,176) would be equivalent to $88,964 in 2006–07 dollars, but they actually earned an average salary of $87,866 in 2006–07—a decrease in present dollar value of $1,098 (1.2%). Senior high school principals’ 2001–02 salary ($83,944) would be equivalent to $95,528 in 2006–07 dollars; however, they actually earned an average salary of $92,965 in 2006–07—a decrease in present dollar value of $2,563 (2.7%) over the five-year period.
Similarly, the reported 2001–02 average salaries for junior high/middle school assistant principals ($64,375) and senior high school assistant principals ($67,822) would be equivalent to $73,259 and $77,181, respectively, in 2006-07 dollars. However, these assistant principals actually earned an average salary of $73,020 and $75,121, respectively, in 2006– 07—decreases in present dollar values of $239 (0.3%) and $2,060 (2.7%), respectively, over the five-year period. Thus, the data show that when the past five years are viewed as a whole, these principals and assistant principals are making about 1.8% less this year, on average, than they did five years ago when the cost of living is taken into account.
Close inspection of the tables reveals salary increases for all principals and assistant principals were at their lowest in the 2003–04 school year. Specifically, principal and assistant principal salaries collectively decreased by about 0.5% from 2002–03 to 2003–04—that’s 2.8 percentage points lower than the CPI, which gained 2.3 percentage points from 2002 to 2003.
Current Salary Comparisons
According to the results of the National Survey of Salaries and Wages in Public Schools, the mean of the average salaries reported by school systems for junior high and middle school principals in 2006–07 is $87,866. For senior high school principals, the average is $92,965. Additionally, the average salaries paid assistant principals in 2006–07 are $73,020 at the junior high and middle level and $75,121 at the high school level. These data indicate that as the school level of principals and assistant principals increases, so do average salaries.
The geographic region in which a district is located, the enrollment size of the district, and the per-pupil expenditure level of the school district also affect salary. The data show that principals residing in the Mid-East, the Far West, and New England tend to have the highest average salaries, while those living in the Southwest and Rocky Mountains tend to have the lowest. For example, high school principals in the Mid-East earn an average salary of $107,160—15.3% more than the average salary for high school principals across all of the regions. In contrast, the average salary of high school principals in the Rocky Mountain region is $80,610—13.3% lower than the average salary overall. For assistant principals, those residing in the Mid-East regions tend to earn the highest salaries, and those residing in the Southwest tend to have the lowest salaries.
As one might expect, a school district’s enrollment size also affects principals’ salaries. The data show that principals and assistant principals from districts with fewer than 2,500 pupils tend to be paid far less than their counterparts from larger districts. To illustrate this point, Table 2 shows high school principals from districts with larger pupil enrollments (i.e., 2,500 or more) take home salaries of about $100,000, on average. Those from districts with fewer than 2,500 pupils, however, take home salaries ranging in the low eighties (averaging $80,012)— about 20% less than districts with the larger enrollment sizes.
When examined in terms of the per-pupil expenditure level of a district, principals and assistant principals from districts spending $10,000 or more per pupil tend to receive higher salaries than their counterparts in districts with lower per-pupil expenditure levels. For example, Table 1 shows that middle level principals from districts with per-pupil expenditure levels of less than $7,000 earn an average salary of $78,911—10.2% less than the average salaries overall for middle level principals. However, middle level principals from districts with per-pupil expenditure levels of $10,000 or more earn an average salary of $94,499—about 7.5% higher than the average salary for this group overall. A similar pattern exists for high school principals and assistant principals.
The National Survey of Salaries and Wages in Public Schools, conducted annually since 1973 by ERS, randomly surveys a stratified sample of U.S. school systems of varying pupil enrollment sizes (e.g., 25,000 or more; 10,000 to 24,999; 2,500 to 9,999; and 300 to 2,499). Average salaries paid to personnel in 33 professional and support positions are collected. For the 2006–07 school year, 550 school systems throughout the United States reported data. This information provides a national database for school management and policy decisions concerning staff compensation. NL
Prepared by Nancy Protheroe, director of special research projects, and Chris Licciardi, associate issues analyst, from the Educational Research Service (ERS). Copyrighted in 2007 by ERS with all rights reserved. To order Salaries & Wages Paid Professional and Support Personnel in Public Schools, 2006–2007, call 800-791-9308 or visit www.ers.org.
1 States included in geographic region: New England (CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT); Mideast (DE, DC, MD, NJ, NY, PA); Southeast (AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, VA, WV); Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH, WI); Plains (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD); Southwest (AZ, NM, OK, TX); Rocky Mountains (CO, ID, MT, UT, WY); Far West (AK, CA, HI, NV, OR, WA).
2 Enrollment is defined as all pupils in grades K– 12. Half-day kindergarten students are counted as ½ pupils.
3 “Per-pupil expenditure” is defined as the amount of the school system’s general operating budget (excluding capital outlay, debt services, and preK and adult education funds) divided by the enrollment of the school system.
* Percent change in CPI is for the calendar year beginning in the year shown (e.g., 2006–07 = 2006 CPI year).
** Data categorized by geographic region and per-pupil expenditure level may be subject to considerable sampling and response variation and should be used only as general indicators of the current relationships among the categories. These data are not appropriate for year-to-year trends.