Originally Published in the Public School Forum’s Friday Report on 8/11/17

A new principal pay plan enacted this year by the General Assembly drew pointed comments and concerns at last week’s State Board of Education’s (SBE) meeting. The 2017 changes dramatically overhaul how the state’s principals and assistant principals are compensated. With North Carolina currently ranking at the bottom nationally in average principal pay, the new $35.4 million investment in school administrator pay for this school year was clearly welcomed. However, based on comments and questions by SBE members and educators last week, the new plan may have created as many problems as it solved.

The big change moves principal pay from a schedule based on years of experience and number of teachers supervised to a schedule based on the number of students in the school and the “school growth scores” which are based on student EOG and EOC test scores that are used to create a composite school score known as the EVAAS School-wide Accountability Growth measure. The new plan also will eliminate both longevity pay and supplemental salary bumps for administrators who achieve advanced degrees. The General Assembly eliminated both forms of pay for many teachers in recent years.

While the legislated changes to principal pay are complex with “hold harmless” provisions and other exceptions, the basics are that the old principal salary schedule ranges went from $56,100 to $109,848 plus longevity; whereas, the new principal salary schedule ranges from $61,751 to $89,921, not including bonuses and other differentials. See NCDPI Budget Implementation Update, p. 23. Even with the hold harmless provisions, many principals are reporting that the new plan equates to a significant pay cut.

Here is a chart of the new 2017-18 Principal Salary Schedule (without the accompanying special provisions):

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See Appropriations Act of 2017, Section 8.3(a), p. 94.

At the August 2nd SBE Meeting, Board members and advisors offered sharp questions and key comments about tying principals’ salaries to the school growth scores of the school. They also reported situations where an assistant principal’s pay could be higher than the principal’s pay at the same school. The NC Department of Public Instruction confirmed that this situation is not an anomaly under the new plan.

The larger concerns voiced, however, were that by tying principal pay to school growth scores, the state could deter high performing administrators from moving to a chronically low-performing school where they are needed most, perhaps an unintended consequence of this new law.

“It’s going to make it even more difficult simply because these principals know that if they go into these schools, these at-risk schools, high poverty schools, that there is a possibility that the cost of that growth model piece, that is going to affect their salary,” said Amanda Bell, Local Board of Education Advisor. “So, who’s going to want to go?”

The apparent sense of this new principal pay plan was one of resignation for now – as it is law enacted by the General Assembly and therefore non-negotiable.

“I know we can’t change it,” said SBE Board Member Patricia Willoughby. “But we’re being asked to vote on this knowing that it’s not fair, it’s not right, to comply with the law — but what is our other option here?”

There were indications by SBE members and advisors that they plan to give legislators specific input on opportunities for improvement when, or before, they come back for their Short Session in May 2018. State Board of Education Legislative Affairs Director Cecilia Holden said they would be pulling together principals, central office representatives and the business-backed non-profit BEST NC that pushed the principal pay legislation forward to identify fixes and areas for improvement.

For more detailed information on 2017-18 Principal Pay, see NCDPI’s Financial & Business Services Division website, including its 2017-18 Principals Pay Schedules FAQ. For personnel questions on any specific school administrator’s salary for 2017-18, please confer with your local school system’s human resources office.

To subscribe to the Public School Forum’s Friday Report, visit www.ncforum.org

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