2009 Principal Salary Survey
Principals’ Salary Increases Fall Below Consumer Price Index
In the heart of one of the country’s worst economic crises, it may come as no surprise that in 2008–09, principals’ salary increases fell below the Consumer Price Index (CPI). However, despite the hit taken in purchasing power, principals and assistant principals did see a measurable increase in their wages over last year, according to an annual survey compiled by Educational Research Service (ERS).
The 2008–09 average salary for senior high school principals, for example, is 1.9% higher than that for 2007–08. Compared to an increase of 3.9% for the CPI, the small gain results in a loss of purchasing power—on average— for these principals. 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.
Salary increases for all of the four groups that NASSP represents— junior high/middle school principals, senior high principals, junior high/middle school assistant principals, and senior high school assistant principals—were slightly lower than increases reported in previous years.
In effect, the marginal increase in wages led to a loss in purchasing power that spans five years. Again using salaries of senior high school principals as an example, the data indicate that on average, the group’s purchasing power is lower than it was in 2003–04. That year’s average salary for senior high principals ($86,160) would be worth about $100,807 today— $1,442 more than the actual average pay for this group.
Current Salary Comparisons
According to the results of Salaries & Wages Paid Professional and Support Personnel in Public Schools, 2008–09, the mean (or “average”) of the salaries reported by school districts for junior high/middle school principals in 2008–09 is $93,478 (an increase of 2.3% over 2007–08). For senior high school principals, the average is $99,365. Additionally, the average salaries paid assistant principals in 2008–09 are $77,476 (junior high/middle level) and $81,083 (senior high level), revealing increases of 1.9% and 2.1% over the 2007–08 year.
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. When viewed by geographic region, the data show principals residing in the Mid- East or the Far West tend to have the highest average salaries, while those living in the Southwest or Rocky Mountains tend to have the lowest. For instance, senior high school principals in the Mid-East earn an average salary of $114,329—15.1% more than the average salary for high school principals across all of the regions. In contrast, the average salary of senior high school principals in the Rocky Mountains is $88,226—11.2% lower than the average salary overall. For assistant principals, those residing in the Far West 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 plays a factor in principals’ salaries. The data demonstrate that principals and assistant principals from districts with fewer than 2,500 pupils tend to be paid substantially less than their counterparts from larger districts. To illustrate this point, senior high school principals from districts with larger pupil enrollments (i.e., 2,500 or more) take home salaries in excess of $100,000, on average. Those from districts with fewer than 2,500 pupils, however, take home salaries averaging $84,787—about 20% less.
When examined in terms of the per-pupil expenditure level of a district, we find principals and assistant principals from districts spending $11,000 or more per pupil tend to receive higher salaries than their counterparts in districts with lower per-pupil expenditure levels. Junior high/middle school principals from districts with perpupil expenditures of less than $8,000 earn an average salary of $84,803—9.3% less than the average salaries overall for junior high/middle school principals. However, junior high/middle school principals from districts with per-pupil expenditure levels of $11,000 or more earn an average salary of $100,673—about 7.7% higher than the average salary for this group overall. Similar patterns exist for senior high school principals and for assistant principals.
Salaries & Wages Paid Professional and Support Personnel in Public Schools, 2008–09, conducted since 1973 by ERS, randomly selects a stratified sample of U.S. school districts 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 2008–09 school year, 862 school districts throughout the United States reported data. NL
Prepared by Chris Licciardi, issues analyst from the Educational Research Service (ERS). Copyrighted in 2009 by ERS with all rights reserved. To order Salaries & Wages Paid Professional and Support Personnel in Public Schools, 2008–09, call 800-791-9308 or visit www.ers.org.
1 States included in geographic region: New England (CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT); Mid-East (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 kindergartners are counted as ½ pupils.
3 “Per-pupil expenditure” is defined as the amount of the school district’s general operating budget (excluding capital outlay, debt services, and preK and adult education funds) divided by the enrollment of the school district.
* Percent change in CPI is for the calendar year beginning in the year shown (e.g., 2008–09=2008 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.