Texas superintendent salaries have been increasing, with dozens of officials now making over $300,000 a year despite student enrollment figures dropping at public schools.

Newly released data from the Texas Education Agency shows that 89 superintendents had a base salary of at least $300,000 in the 2023-2024 school year. In the 2013-2014 school year, only 13 superintendents made $300,000 in base pay. In 2019-2020, 56 fell within this category. The number of superintendents making above $400,000 rose from four to eight between the 2019-2020 and the 2023-2024 terms.

Cypress-Fairbanks ISD’s Mark Henry — now retired — has been the top earner among superintendents in Texas this past decade. He earned a base pay of $536,755 last school year.

Alongside these taxpayer-funded, six-digit base salaries, superintendents often have car, phone, and housing allowances and receive bonuses for reaching specific benchmarks. For instance, Dallas ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde can receive $20,000 of taxpayer money each time a student outcome goal, mutually agreed upon between herself and the district’s trustees, is met. Moreover, Highland Park ISD Superintendent Mike Rockwood has been living in a University Park home valued at $1.76 million rent-free since last summer, courtesy of the district’s taxpayers.

While salaries have grown across all sectors to varying extents these past few years due to inflation, the surge in superintendents’ pay comes alongside declining student enrollment figures. As covered extensively by The Dallas Express, myriad factors are behind this downward trend, from demographic shifts to increased competition from new charter schools and other education alternatives.

Some districts’ shrinking student bodies have been paradoxical compared to population growth, such as at Fort Worth ISD. Similarly, Dallas ISD is projecting 137,529 student enrollees next school year, a considerable drop compared to the 157,575 students enrolled in 2011-2012.

Both school systems have seen lackluster academic results, with the latest accountability report from the Texas Education Agency showing that 32% of Fort Worth ISD students scored at grade level on their 2021-2022 STAAR exams. It also achieved an on-time graduation rate of 85.7%, compared with the state average of 90%. Meanwhile, only 41% of Dallas ISD students scored at grade level on the 2021-2022 STAAR exam, and almost 20% of the Class of 2022 failed to graduate within four years.

Elizalde and Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Angélica Ramsey had roughly the same base pay for the 2023-2024 school year: $338,000 and $337,484, respectively. Yet Elizalde recently negotiated a salary bump of $37,000 with trustees, who approved extending her contract through 2028.

While academic results appear not to impact supers’ base pay, further headscratchers for taxpayers may include the apparent absence of a correlation between these salaries and the number of students. Cypress-Fairbanks ISD’s Mark Henry oversaw 118,470 students, while the next two highest-paid supers — Barbers Hill ISD’s Gregory Poole and Ysleta ISD’s Xavier De La Torre — run districts of 7,723 and 34,918 students, respectively.

It is also noteworthy that the superintendents of Houston ISD and La Joya ISD, both of which are currently under state-appointed management, are pulling in over $300,000.

“Sky-high superintendent salaries raise serious questions about the lack of fiscal discipline throughout all of public education. After all, if there’s no restraint at the top, then why should we expect to find prudence elsewhere?” asked James Quintero, a policy director at the right-leaning think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation, per the Texas Scorecard.

Quintero noted on X that eight of the top 10 highest-paid superintendents earn more than President Joe Biden and expressed hope that Texas lawmakers will address public sector compensation in the next legislative session.

“Superintendents are getting rich from their public service. Such self-centeredness is violative of taxpayers and the public trust. Worse, it deprives classrooms of resources needed to teach kids to read, write, and do math,” he said, per Texas Scorecard.