by Rachel McPherson
October 2, 2018

With all the talk (and protests) about teacher pay, why don’t we ever hear about superintendents? In this graphic, we show just how much an Arizona superintendent’s salary is worth when compared with teachers. It turns out that school administrators consistently earn more than teachers—sometimes substantially more.

See for yourself. In Sunnyside Unified School District alone, the superintendent is worth more than six teacher salaries. But there’s much more to the story of expensive administrative bloat in Arizona public schools. A new report by Goldwater Institute Senior Fellow Jonathan Butcher found that in many Arizona school districts, teacher salaries could go up—if the districts took steps to eliminate wasteful spending.

How many teachers is a superintendent worth?
Source: Arizona Auditor General, Arizona School District Spending, FY 2017, March 2018, Report No. 18-203,; Arizona Department of Education, Annual Report of the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, Vol. II, Fiscal Year 2016-2017,; author calculations.

In addition to offering sky-high administrator salaries, some school districts spend more on administrative costs simply because they have more administrative positions. In Yuma Union High School District, the state auditor estimates that $1.4 million of administrative expenses could be redirected if the district were to spend the same amount as comparable districts. In doing so, Yuma Union could offer each of the district’s 426 teachers a $3,300 raise. If Piñon Unified School District redirected nearly $1 million of administrative costs to classroom spending, each of the district’s 78 teachers would see a raise of almost $12,000. Similarly to Piñon Unified, Tuba City Unified School District could redirect $1.3 million to teacher salaries for an average increase of $12,000 per teacher.

So how can school districts increase teachers’ pay while also cutting bloated administrative costs? The answer is simple: Districts must become smarter spenders. Overpaying school administrators and employing excess administrative staff only increases costs on the taxpayer without necessarily resulting in teacher salary raises. Trimming administrative spending results in a win-win scenario for both the teachers and the taxpayers.

To read the full report and learn more about how Arizona school districts can eliminate wasteful spending, click here.

Rachel McPherson is a Ronald Reagan Fellow at the Goldwater Institute.

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