by Julie Tisdale
City & County Policy Analyst
This morning, I saw this headline.
Being a big fan of both charter schools and transparency, I clicked through. It turns out there’s a larger charter schools bill which includes a provision to “shield charter school teachers from publicly disclosing their names and salaries.” We’re talking individual names and salaries. It’s information you can get about teachers in district schools now, if you’re interested enough to file a public records request.
According to this article,
“We need transparency of salary information for all public schools – both traditional and charter schools,” McCrory said in a written statement.
Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, asked the Senate not to concur with the House version, and confirmed that the shield provision would be changed in conference committee.
“We have to be transparent,” he said. “It’s public money, is it not?”
Yes, it is public money, i.e. taxpayers’ money, yours and mine. And yes, transparency is important. You and I should absolutely have access to lots of information about how the government spends our money. But disclosing each individual’s salary isn’t necessary for transparency. We can hold charter schools accountable for their use of public money if we know how many teachers they employ and how much they spend on salaries in total. We can hold charter schools accountable if we know how much they spend and how their students perform academically.
I suspect this is really about something else. The article hints at that when it says that Rep. Charles Jeter, who originally proposed the provision, is now saying that
a better way to examine how teachers are paid and if it’s equal and fair, might be to require that gender be attached to pay figures instead of names.
So it’s really not about transparency in terms of the value for money we’re getting from charter schools or whether public money is appropriately being spent on education in charter schools. It’s actually about monitoring those charter schools to ensure they’re paying men and women the same.
The great strength of charter schools is that they have the freedom necessary to do things differently than district schools. That includes how they manage salaries. District schools adhere to strict pay scales. Charter schools have more latitude. Lawmakers should be very careful about restricting those freedoms, including the ability for schools and teachers to negotiate salaries. Teachers aren’t just men or women. They bring unique sets of skills, knowledge, and experience to their jobs. Charter schools can pay teachers in a way that reflects that, which helps them to get the mix of teachers that best suits the needs of their particular students. Lawmakers should think twice about any legislation that makes that more difficult.