SPOTSWOOD – Having bucked the teacher’s union bronco in April when most municipalities rejected school budgets not containing the governor’s recommended pay freezes for teachers, Gov. Chris Christie today undertook the less strenuous political challenge of targeting that hardly beloved class of professionals known as school superintendents.
“The superintendents’ pay situation has gotten out of control,” the governor announced. “While I have great admiration for what they do, most of them have a job not that much more difficult than the governor’s.”
The remark was a crack at Christie’s own salary, which is $175,000.
Standing in a school they said is emblematic of what they want to implement statewide, Christie and Department of Education Commissioner Bret Schundler announced an initiative to cap superintendents’ salaries at no higher than $175,000 apiece.
Seventy-percent of superintendents employed in New Jersey’s public school system make more than the salary cap, said the governor.
“We hope this sets an example that everyone should be part of shared sacrifice,” Christie told a roomful of reporters packed among local school officials inside the E. Raymond Appleby Elementary School.
The governor and Schundler traded explanations of a proposal they said would allow local school boards to contribute to criteria for merit pay for their superintendents.
“This is not going to interfere with current contracts, but when these contracts expire, the new sliding scale will be implemented,” Christie said.
Given an opportunity, the governor declined to potshot any particular school super, some of whose salaries infamously run into the vicinity of $275,000 and above.
“I’m not getting into a role call of outrageous contracts,” he said.
Asked if he regrets aiming at teachers’ salaries prior to the administrators, the governor said, “No. The real money is in the teachers’ union. These numbers are flashier, but it’s just a numbers game. We were always moving toward school superintendents.”
The governor also explained that the loss of $1 billion in federal aid made that much more urgent the $700-750 million that the government could have collected as a specific consequence of the teachers’ freezes statewide.
“There was nothing comparable to that savings without tax increases,” Christie said. “Context is key. And again, we had always talked about doing the superintendents’ pay as well.”