Superintendent salary issue should be carefully studied

Published 8:33 pm Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Rep. Becky Currie of Brookhaven plans to introduce a bill next year that will reduce the salary of the state’s Superintendent of Education.

Carey Wright’s salary of about $300,000 is high compared with her peers. According to Education Week, an average state superintendent’s salary is $174,000. Florida has the second highest-paid superintendent at $276,000.

Yes, the state needs to provide an attractive salary to bring in the most qualified individual to the job. But it probably doesn’t need to outspend everyone else by such a wide margin. Currie’s bill would lower the salary to $250,000.

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Wright’s salary is currently set by the state Board of Education. Currie’s bill would appear to move that to the state Legislature, with any increase in pay coming before lawmakers.

Currie said she feels Wright has a done a good job since taking over in 2013. She cited increased student grades, graduation rates and ACT scores. But the state still trails in most education markers.

If we suddenly found ourselves off the bottom of those lists, would some believe the $300,000 salary is worth it? Maybe. Improving education in Mississippi is one of the most difficult school chief jobs in the country, so it may take a higher-than-expected salary to attract someone who can do just that.

Wright will likely remain atop the list of highest paid superintendents, but the issue needs to be studied carefully before the next school chief is hired.

Currie’s bill would be a step in that direction.