Education superintendents are the best paid state executive officials in the country

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September 20, 2011

By David Godow

MADISON, Wisconsin:

A new Ballotpedia analysis of statewide officer compensation has revealed that the highest-paid state executive position in the country is the Superintendent of Schools. State superintendents, education commissioners and similar offices collectively earn an average of $157,452. This is almost 20% higher than the average salary of the next most highly paid officers, the governors, who earn an average of $131,695. Lieutenant governors, on the other hand, bring in far less than either their gubernatorial running mates or superintendents, with an average annual salary of $91,758.

Utilizing data from the Book of the States 2010 published by the Council of State Governments, a non-profit association of state government officials, Ballotpedia dissected the compensation of 13 different state executive offices in all 50 states. Our report displays 2010 salary data for every office, zeroing in on the top five best paid executives across the country in each office. Additionally, we dive into some of the trends surrounding state officer compensation, showing where executives are raking it in, and where they aren't.

While giving keen attention to what's going on in the states, the report also takes a more macro view, looking at how average salary levels differ across entire regions. According to our research, state executive compensation is reasonably consistent across the country, with the eastern states (average annual salary of $124,267) slightly edging out the South ($123,358) in state executive salary levels. By contrast, the Midwest hosts the least well paid state executives in the country; the heartland states pay their executives an average annual salary of $110,184.

Beyond looking at raw salary numbers, we revealed some interesting trends by tracking how much salary levels vary within a single office. Calculating the standard deviation of the salaries of each office -- that is, the average amount that the salary of an office varies across all the states where that office exists -- allows us to examine which offices have the biggest spread of compensation. Superintendents of schools are, once again, the big story. Though they earn more, on average, than other state executives, they also have the largest standard deviation -- $56,593 -- of any office. This means that while a number of states compensate their superintendents lavishly, there is considerable variation. For example, while the best paid superintendent (and state executive) in the country, the Louisiana Superintendent of Education, brought home $341,458 in 2010, the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction earned only $85,000. No other executive office shows quite so high a level of salary variation.

For more facts, figures and general salary fun, check out the full report: Compensation of state executive officers.

See also