Alberta eyes pay grid, ceiling to rein in school superintendent salaries

Until the province comes up with a way to limit rising salaries for school superintendents, Education Minister David Eggen will not be signing off on any new contracts.

'Alberta pays more than any other province,' education minister says

Education Minister David Eggen said the government is looking to rein in superintendent salaries. (CBC)

Until the province comes up with a way to limit rising salaries for school superintendents, Education Minister David Eggen will not be signing off on any new contracts.

"These contracts do come across my desk," Eggen said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM on Wednesday. "And, as for now, I'm not signing any new ones.

Eggen's decision comes a day after a new report revealed dramatic increases in superintendent salaries.

The survey, compiled for the Alberta School Boards Association, found that base salaries for Alberta school superintendents rose by 10 per cent between 2015 and 2016, while pay for teachers remained flat and compensation for equivalent government positions dropped by 14 per cent.

According to the report by Western Management Consultants, base salaries for Alberta superintendents ranged from $229,448 to $357,404, "significantly higher" than in Ontario, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

'These salaries are out of line'

The province needs to do something to get the situation "under control," Eggen said.

Eggen told reporters Tuesday, he's looking at a number of options, including a pay cap and a salary grid.

"These salaries are out of line with other with regular teachers and other education workers, and out of step with the economy here in the province," Eggen said Wednesday. "Alberta pays more than any other province."

He would not say what his timelines are, but acknowledged current legislation prevents the government from dictating superintendent salaries, which are which are negotiated and set by school boards.

Eggen said he has yet to sign off on Edmonton Catholic Schools' new contract with Joan Carr, Alberta's highest paid school superintendent, who earned $426,824 in total compensation last year.

'It's all public money' 

Eggen will be meeting with school boards to discuss options. He said he wants to respect their autonomy over who they hire, and ability to recruit, he said.

"I certainly have a lot of options that are available to me," Eggen said. "While school boards hire superintendents and set their salary rates, ultimately it's all public money that comes from the Province of Alberta."

The Alberta government has already passed rules to reduce and regulate pay at agencies, boards and commissions. There is also a wage freeze in place for public-sector managers and non-unionized employees.

Teachers agreed to a salary freeze in their current contract as Alberta deals with multi-billion-dollar budget deficits.

Barry Litun, executive director of the College of Alberta School Superintendents, questions the accuracy of numbers in the report, specifically whether the pay increase is as high as 10 per cent.

Litun said on Tuesday, he expects superintendent salaries in Alberta are probably higher than other jurisdictions, but added that "the reality is the salaries in Alberta for virtually every sector, I believe, would be higher."

He said there are other factors to consider. He noted that since Ontario and B.C. capped superintendent and other senior salaries, there have been problems filling those jobs because pay for principals and teachers has continued to rise.

"In many jurisdictions, the principals are earning a higher salary than those in the leadership positions at the district level," he said.

With files from the Canadian Press