Member Support

Contracts, Pay, & Working Conditions

Pay Gap Resources

Last Updated: April 6, 2022

The AWSP Principal Contract Guide

Need advice to help you negotiate a better contract for you and/or your colleagues in a supportive, productive manner? We've created some videos and a quick course to walk you through our contract guide. To access the course, AWSP Active Members will just need to sign in with your MyAWSP account credentials. 

2022 Principal Satisfaction Survey Results

We know principals and assistant principals are working longer and harder than ever before — and under more stress too. As principals have dealt with COVID, contact tracing, and masking, other things have had to give. Anecdotally, we've heard from countless principals that it's time to throw in the towel — they love the job, they just can't do it anymore or deal with what it's doing to them. We are very concerned about a summer of even more principal churn, which is bad for kids (see the Power of the Principal video at the bottom of the page).

To collect some more data about job satisfaction and ideas for changing the role of the principal, we surveyed our members in February 2022. We also repeated some questions from our 2018 pay gap and working conditions survey. We had over 600 responses. We've highlighted some common sentiments on this page, and you'll see a link to the full results below. 

Principals and assistant principals have always had a tough job, and they welcome that. School leadership isn't without its bumps and bruises, but it's incredibly rewarding, and people choose it to make a difference. Our job is to make school leadership more manageable, more enjoyable, more rewarding, and more possible to give our students the strong, caring, and consistent leadership they deserve. 

The History Behind the Pay Gap or Wage Compression

All the information below is old now, but it's still an issue in many districts. Be aware the data is from 2018-19 or 2019-20, but we're keeping it online because the story hasn't changed in many places and the advice is still useful. 

Follow-up Survey: Principal Pay & Working Conditions

Last year, over 550 of you filled out our Pay Gap and Working Conditions survey. That data has been instrumental in helping tell your story to the Legislature and other policymakers. Many of you used our survey results in bargaining your own contracts. We came back this year to take an even deeper data dive. We really needed to know if districts corrected the wage compression issue, or if many of you are still leading a building with teachers making more than you are. Thank you to everyone who took this critical survey. 2019-20 results will be uploaded soon.

2018-19 Survey Results


Special Report: AWSP News, Contracts Edition

We recorded a special edition of AWSP News about the principal and teacher pay gap and principal contracts on March 14 to provide some more background, context, details, and advice for our current reality. The video covers: 

  • How we got into this mess
  • What AWSP has done and is doing
  • What princpals across the state should be doing now
  • Some editorial commentary from AWSP Executive Director Scott Seaman

What else is new? We added a few things to the "What Districts Have Done" section below.

Perhaps more importantly, there's a brand new study from two University of Washington researchers about the impact TPEP has on your time, workload, and stress levels. While the focus is obviously specific to TPEP, it's a great report and talks about how the TPEP workload affects your job and the realities of being a modern principal. In addition to tons of data, there are great quotes throughout the report, many which mirror the quotes from our survey you'll find on this page. 

Check out our links below for the text of our video, the full report, and the executive summary. 

What's The Current Situation?

During the 2018 session, our state Legislature changed the way our schools are funded to fulfill the Supreme Court's requirements in the McCleary Decision. As a result of the sudden influx of new money into the system, teachers across the state got a much-deserved and unprecedented raise. The Legislature put a one-year 3.1% cap on administrator pay, which means in many schools across the state, the gap between principal/assistant principal salaries was greatly reduced or eliminated.

We know the work principals do is extremely rewarding, but it is also equally stressful, difficult, and never done. We believe there must be a sustained and substantial gap between principals salaries and the teachers they evaluate and supervise. We also acknowledge superintendents have been put in an impossible position as they try to balance a budget to keep staff well-paid and happy while maintaining a focus on programs and services for kids. 

What Is AWSP Doing?

We've been hard at work with this issue, from helping principals manage teacher strikes this past summer to guiding local principals groups through contract negotiations. We continue to go on the offensive and work on this issue on all fronts. On a larger scale, we:

  • Dedicated a bunch of resources to increase awareness about what happened.
  • Continue to let legislators knew what happened as a result of the 3.1% cap.
  • Collaborate with partners and stakeholders to provide more support. 
  • Provide regional support through meetings and forums to hear your issues and give advice.

Anything Else?

One of the other ways we brought the issue to awareness is with our new talk show for principals, AWSP TV. We had former Governor Christine Gregoire on as a guest. She had a lot of great things about the work principals do, their importance to the system, and what she called "wage compression."

Watch her talk about the situation in the video below. We've queued it right up for you. 

Christine Gregoire

It’s about respect…what happened is a mistake that needs to be corrected, and soon.”

What Have Districts Done?

A number of districts decided allocated salary increases for principals above the legislatively-mandated 3.1% cap and at a ratio that maintained an acceptable gap. Others introduced more conservative, interim modifications such as salary adjustments up to 3.1%, contract reopener clauses for 2019-2020, and short-term corrections like:

  • Added vacation days with the option to cash them in and/or use while school is in session.
  • Reduced number of contracted work-days (although this doens't necessarily reduce your actual work time).
  • Enhanced cell phone stipends.
  • Increased number of paid supplementary work hours (e.g. evening and weekend events).
  • Retroactive salary corrections (lump-sum payments) when the 3.1% cap expires.
  • Matched teacher raises, regardless of implications.
  • Included protections for RIFs or made sure time as building admin counts towards years of teacher service/seniority for those who do go back to the classroom.

We know other districts found short-term corrections to the pay-gap predicament. We’d love to hear your thoughts and some of the solutions negotiated around the state.

Our Guidance For District Negotiations

Start Now and Plan Ahead

Initiate contract negotiations soon. Signed labor agreements carry precedence over new legislation and our Magic 8-Ball is unclear whether members of the Legislature will begin writing new laws and regulations for “Salary Cap 2.0.”

We highly recommend adding permanent language to your contracts linking the principals' salary schedule to the teachers'. Be sure to use per diemrates and the high school principal’s salary as an anchoring starting point. 

For example: "The first-year high school principal’s per diem rate shall be ___% of the highest paid cell on the teacher salary schedule.” 

Several districts explored contract language and calculation formulas linking the principals’ and teachers’ salary schedules. For more information and possible language for your own district, reach out us.

We're Here For You

Principal contract negotiations can strain the cohesiveness of leadership teams. AWSP’s Principal and the Management Team publication is a helpful reference guide for developing contracts. If you want to see what other contracts might look like for comparable districts, email AWSP Executive Director Dr. Scott Seaman. 


Closing Thoughts

As we continue to make sure there's a legislative fix, keep cultivating supportive relationships with your district leadership team. As we navigate the challenges of the McCleary funding changes, kindness and collaboration will help everyone remain focused on providing the equitable and exemplary culture, systems, and learning all students deserve.  So negotiate your contract in good faith while remaining steadfast and unapologetic about advocating for the obvious. 

A substantial and sustained gap between teachers’ and principals’ salaries is about respect and is critical for maintaining the health of our education system.

Lastly, 552 of our members responded to a principal pay and working conditions survey this past fall. Thank you. The data has been and will be incredibly valuable as we advocate for you, not just on the salary issue, but also trying to keep the job sustainable and reduce principal churn and burnout. We've put together a few charts from some of that data. Just click the link below to check it out. 

Get in Touch

Email AWSP

Contact a Staff Member Directly


For More Information 

Scott Seaman | Executive Director | (800) 562-6100

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