We've updated the charter school salary database to include employees of Sugar Creek Charter School, leaving Lincoln Charter School as the only school that hasn't provided names (Chief Administrator Dave Machado has said his school is working on that list).
The Observer requested salary information from 22 Charlotte-area charter schools in March, sparking a prolonged debate over disclosure that continues to work its way through the General Assembly.
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But I do think full disclosure is important. As Rep. Charles Jeter learned when he introduced an amendment designed to block the Observer and other media from publishing salary lists for charter schools -- the same kind of lists that have been published for employees of school districts and other public bodies for years -- when you start trying to pull some information from public scrutiny you can create more problems than you solve.
If a broader discussion of salary discussion loops around in the coming year, as Jeter has suggested, I hope the people who want to limit public access to personnel data will be challenged to provide specific, first-hand information on the harm that disclosure causes. We heard dire predictions when we first posted Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools salaries in 2008. I'm well aware that many individuals don't like seeing their salaries posted, but I have gotten no reports that it disrupted public education.
Likewise, some charter school officials and advocates said disclosure of merit-based salaries would lead to such turmoil on the faculty that students would suffer. But since we posted the salaries in May, along with articles analyzing teacher pay and administrator salaries in charters and CMS, no one has contacted me or Observer editors to say their school fell apart. Some charter directors have told me the articles helped dispel public myths about extravagant pay at their schools.
I hope any discussion will be precise about terms, too. During debate over Jeter's amendment, which the House approved, he referred to the need to prevent disclosure of merit pay. As I've noted before, merit pay, which is used in some charter and traditional public schools, should make sense, even if there's room to debate the results. Market pay can be random. As one of my professors used to say, the market is amoral. The teacher in the next classroom may earn significantly more for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with fairness or ability. That may be disturbing for teachers to discover, but I suspect the real discomfort falls on the administrators who have to explain it.