Stateline Story

State Legislators Told School Management Crisis Looms

The United States faces not only an impending teacher shortage, but candidates for school principals are becoming scarce, experts told the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures Thursday.

"There is a critical shortage of principals that you are going to have to face immediately if you are not already," Department of Education's Principal in Residence Carole Kennedy told the legislators at "The Coming Crisis in School Leadership" panel.

In the last five years, half of Massachusetts's principals have retired or resigned and 40 percent of K-8 principals expect to leave in the next 10 years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Kennedy said that Kentucky has an overabundance of people certified to be principals but most of them do not want the job. Why? Low pay, long hours and too much job-related stress.

More and more principals are being held accountable for student performance and yet, they have no control over the hiring and firing of teachers, the curriculum or the students who are skipping out on school, she said.

In the last legislative season teacher pay and professional development were given more attention, and all the speakers emphasized doing the same for principals. "You control the purse strings," Kennedy said,"compensation is one of the reasons people aren't coming in."

The average pay for elementary school principals is $67,348, for middle school $71,499 and for high school $76,768. School principals in Delaware, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia are the highest paid. States with the lowest pay scales for principals are Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.

Kennedy suggested lawmakers make sure their university system is providing solid training, consider starting induction and mentoring programs for new administrators and promote quality professional development programs.

"You can insist on high standard programs that will produce people who can do the job and hold them accountable for that," said Kennedy.

Lawmakers were advised to follow the example of North Carolina, which has set up a scholarship program for aspiring principals. It pays them $20,000 a year for two years to get their master's degree in school administration.

North Carolina also created the Principals' Executive Program, a professional development course that stresses management and leadership.

But Tarheel lawmaker Howard Lee said the program has yet to draw enough candidates. He suggested legislators look at redesigning the way public schools are managed.

Tags: Education