Putting the Compensation of the Leaders of National Unions in a Meaningful Context


The Taxable Compensation of the Presidents of the Largest Unions in the U.S.:


In February 2014, the National Review published an article by Jim Geraghty titled “America’s Richest 2%: Union Presidents.” That article included the following paragraphs, heavily slanted to make the salaries sound outrageously disproportionate to what anyone in such leadership positions should be earning:

One union president can say—either with pride or with shame—that he is, indeed, one of America’s richest one-half of 1 percent. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees’ international president, Gerald McEntee, had a gross salary of $1,020,751 in 2012.

“American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten is listed as having a base salary of $396,304—with more than $160,000 in “benefits and other compensation.” This puts her in the richest 1 percent, as the threshold for that distinction is a salary of $394,000. Fifteen staffers at the organization collect more than $200,000, once you combine salary and other benefits.

“James Callahan, president of the International Union of Operating Engineers, reported a gross salary of $352,101 in 2012.

“Edwin Hill, international president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, made $326,253 in gross salary in 2012.

“Over at the National Education Association, 32 staffers make more than $200,000 per year, topped by director Andrew Linebaugh’s $304,085.

“Joseph Hansen, international president of the United Food and Commercial Workers, made $297,941 in gross salary in 2012.

“Robert Buffenbarger, international president of the Machinists, had a gross salary of $253,914 in 2012.

“Lawrence Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America, can lament that his 2012 gross salary of $193,793 leaves him in only the richest 3 percent of Americans.”


The complete article is available at: http://www.nationalreview.com/campaign-spot/370827/americas-richest-2-percent-union-presidents-jim-geraghty


Let’s put aside that these presidents represent some of the largest national unions in the U.S. and that their salaries are dwarfed by the compensation received by the top 100 corporate CEOs in just my own state of Ohio, never mind in the whole nation.

I thought that it would be instructive to compare their salaries to those of the leaders in the privatization and corporatization of American public education: the leaders of for-profit colleges and universities, of non-profit standardized test providers, and of charter schools.

I am not even including the compensation for the corporate officers of Pearson, McGraw-Hill, or the various MOOC providers because I am certain that it would be argued that their total compensation is based on a broader spectrum of responsibilities than what I might wish to focus on here. Nor have I included the compensation of the presidents and other top administrators at our own universities, since those have been and will continue to be the subject of many other posts to this blog.

In any case, this post is meant to be suggestive and illustrative, not statistically definitive.

That said, given that privatization and corporatization are supposed to be mechanisms for a more efficient and effective use of tax revenues, I wonder how the salaries indicated in the following sections of this post are justifiable—especially given the woeful academic results achieved by for-profit colleges and universities, by the pervasive use of standardized testing, and by the charter schools (highlighted in the final section of this post). After all, improved accountability is supposed to be the core reason for their existence as alternatives to public education.

If you do a Google search on compensation of charter school leaders, you will find articles that attempt to deflect the criticism of their grossly inflated compensation by echoing the “class warfare” talking points that have long been employed to discourage broader criticism of the compensation of corporate CEO’s and concerns over widening income inequality.

What goes unexplained is why union leaders, who are in comparative terms, compensated much more modestly should be targeted with the rhetoric of “class warfare” by the very commentators who in every other instance have very loudly decried the use of such rhetoric.

If the attempt is to highlight some supposed hypocrisy among union leaders, the attempt surely backfires if one has any broader context in which to gauge their compensation.


The Taxable Compensation for CEOs of For-Profit Colleges and Universities:


American Public Education, Wallace Boston:$2.32 million (2012)

Apollo Group (U of Phoenix), Gregory W. Cappelli: $4.54 million (2013), $4.05 million (2012). Chairman Emeritus John Sperling received $6.87 million and $6.95 million in 2013 and 2012, respectively.

Bridgepointe Education, Andrew Clark: $2.25 million (2012), $2.70 million (2011)

Career Education, Steven Lesnik: $3.11 million (2013) and $504K, (2012).

Corinthian College (Everest, WyoTech), Jack Massimino: $3.02 million (2013) and $3.19 million (2012)

Devry, Daniel Hamburger: $6.24 million (2013) and $5.05 million (2012).

Education Management (Art Institutes, Brown-Mackie, Argosy), Edward West: $1.16 million (2013) and $1.25 million (2012). 

Grand Canyon Management, Brian Mueller: $2.68 million (2012)

Lincoln Educational Services, Shaun E. Mcalmont: $1.97 million (2012)

Strayer, Robert Silberman: $2.56 million (2012)

University Technical Institute, Kimberly Mcwaters: $2.20 million (2013), $1.97 million (2012)

ITT Educational Services, Kevin Modany: $8.76 million (2012). No data for 2013 at this time.  Four other employees earn more than $1.5 million at ITT.


Rust, Adam. “Twelve Salaries for For-Profit University Presidents” [sic]. Bank Talk 18 Feb. 2014.

URL: http://banktalk.org/content/university-president-salaries


The truly dismal academic results produced by these institutions have been documented fairly extensively in other posts to this blog.


The Taxable Compensation of the Three Largest Educational Non-Profits:


Kurt Langraf

Educational Testing Services

2013 Taxable Compensation



Jon Whitmore


2014 Taxable Compensation



David Coleman

College Board

2014 Taxable Compensation



Strauss, Valerie. “How Much Do Big Education Nonprofits Pay Their Bosses? Quite a Bit, It Turns Out.” Washington Post 30 Sep. 2015.

URL: https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/09/30/how-much-do-big-education-nonprofits-pay-their-bosses-quite-a-bit-it-turns-out/


The Taxable Compensation of Charter School Leaders in Texas:


“Charter school superintendents in Texas are being paid much more for the small number of students they supervise than superintendents in public schools, according to the vice chairman of the State Board of Education. Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, on Thursday released a survey of superintendent salaries that showed the top 10 highest paid charter school superintendents make an average $242,172 a year, compared with an average salary of $323,156 for the top 10 highest paid public school superintendents.

“The problem, according to Ratliff, is those charter school superintendents have an average enrollment of 3,037 students. The average enrollment for the public school superintendents is 50,555. The salaries work out to $79.74 per student for the charter superintendents, compared with a cost of $6.39 per student for the public school superintendents. In other words, the cost per student is 12 times as much for the charter school superintendents.

“In the Dallas area, charter school superintendents actually make more on average than some of their counterparts in regular school districts. The salary at one leading charter school in Dallas is $249,701, while regular school superintendents in the area earn an average $242,406 a year. That works out to $9.20 per public school student and $329 per charter school student.”


Stutz, Terrence. “Texas Charter School Superintendents Overpaid Compared with Public School Counterparts.” Dallas Morning News 1 May 2014.

URL: http://educationblog.dallasnews.com/2014/05/texas-charter-school-superintendents-overpaid-compared-with-public-school-counterparts.html/


The Taxable Compensation of Charter School Leaders in New York City:


NYC Charter School Leaders 

Monahan, Rachel. “Top 16 NYC Charter School Executives Earn More than Chancellor Dennis Walcott.” New York Daily News 27 Oct. 2013.

URL: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/top-16-nyc-charter-school-execs-out-earn-chancellor-dennis-walcott-article-1.1497717


More on the Taxable Compensation of Charter School Leaders in New York City:


“Operating non-profit charter schools can be very profitable for charter school executives like Eva Moskowitz. Moskowitz earns close to a half a million dollars a year ($485,000) for overseeing school programs that serve 6,700 children, which is over $72 per student. By comparison, New York State Education Commissioner is paid a salary of $212,000 to oversee programs with 2.7 million students or about 8 cents per student. In other words, Moskowitz earns about 100 times more than King for each student enrolled in a Success Academy Charter School. Carmen Farina, New York City School Chancellor is paid $212,000 a year to oversee 1.1 million students or about 19 cents per student.

“According to my calculations and The New York Times, other non-profit charter school administrators also make some very heady profits. The head of the Harlem Village Academies earns $499,000 to manage schools with 1,355 students or $369 per student. The head of the Bronx Preparatory School earns $338,000 to manage schools with 651 students or over $500 per student. The head of the Our World Charterearns $200,000 to manage schools with a total of 738 students or $271 per student. The local head of the KIPP Charter Network earns $235,000 to manage schools with 2,796 or $84 per student. By comparison, the chief educational officer of Texas is paid $214,999 to manage a system with almost 5 million public school students.”


Singer, Alan. “Big Profits in Not-For-Profit Charter Schools.” HuffPost Politics 7 June 2014.

URL: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/charter-school-executive-profit_b_5093883.html


The Taxable Compensation of Charter School Leaders vs the Results of Charter Schools on the Reformers’ Own Standardized Tests:


It is worth emphasizing that these paragraphs are from an article published in Forbes:

“Too bad the kids in charter schools don’t learn any better than those in plain-vanilla public schools. Stanford University crunched test data from 26 states. About a quarter of charters delivered better reading scores, but more than half produced no improvement, and 19% had worse results. In math, 29% of the charters delivered better math scores, while 40% showed no difference, and 31% fared worse.

“Unimpressive, especially when you consider charter schools can pick and choose their students—weeding out autistic kids, for example, or those whose first language isn’t English. Charter schools in the District of Columbia are expelling students for discipline problems at 28 times the rate of the district’s traditional public schools—where those ‘problem kids’ are destined to return.

“Nor does the evidence show that charters spend taxpayers’ money more efficiently. Researchers from Michigan State and the University of Utah studied charters in Michigan, finding they spent $774 more per student on administration, and $1,140 less on instruction.”


Wiggin, Addison. “Charter School Gravy Train Runs Express to Fat City.” Forbes 10 Sep. 2013.

URL: http://www.forbes.com/sites/greatspeculations/2013/09/10/charter-school-gravy-train-runs-express-to-fat-city/



2 thoughts on “Putting the Compensation of the Leaders of National Unions in a Meaningful Context

  1. All that you write is correct about the overpaid execs of corps and charter schools etc., but we still should hold our unions to a higher standard, since they are supposed to be democratic institutions where the members rule, ultimately. These salaries of union presidents, by these standards, are outrageous. There is not any rational reason (except corporate mimicry and personal greed and ambition) that any union leader should ever make more than twice the amount of the median of the workers they represent. Some national unions (ILWU, UE) have such provisions and many locals have adopted such pay rates. I know since I worked as the sole professional staffer (ED) for one such AFT local. This sort of pay tends to line up the motives of the leadership and staff with that of the members – always good for democratic processes. Just my 2 cents, of course.

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