Some charter schools exempt from reporting salaries for Open Georgia site. Why?

As an editorial writer, I was charged with looking at instances where state and local officials failed to follow the state’s open record and open meetings laws.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????While elected officials run on promises of transparency and profess support of Sunshine laws, they didn’t always follow them faithfully and sometimes attempted to carve out exceptions.

So, I was not surprised to read AJC reporter James Salzer’s account of the lack of disclosure about how much some charter schools pay their staffs.

Apparently, someone collects the information but it is not reaching the much ballyhooed Open Georgia web site, which is supposed to provide one-stop shopping for voters in the market for details about how much folks on the public payroll earn.

One of the AJC’s top government reporters, Salzer reports: (This is an excerpt. Please read the full story before commenting.)

State taxpayers will spend about $80 million next year on supplements for charter schools and charter school systems, but the public won’t necessarily get to know how much the folks at all charter schools are paid. At least not if they look on the state’s salary web site.

That’s because not all of that information is shared with the state Department of Audits, which puts out salary and expense data on the state’s Open Georgia web site.

The popular Open Georgia web site has information on government salaries, and expenditures, tax information, and a host of other goodies for public finance geeks. It is updated a few months after the end of each fiscal year. It lists the pay of every public school, University System and state government employee.

One of the things it doesn’t have is all the salaries of every teacher, principal, and staffer at every charter school. Officials at the Department of Audits say they’ve received many questions about the collection, or lack of collection, of charter school data.

“Currently, state charter schools do not fall under the legal definition of an agency that is required to report its information to our department … so the charter schools do not submit data to us,” an agency official said.

About one-fourth of the state about 380 charter schools are start-ups, either locally approved or approved by the state.

Some public school teachers think charter schools are treated differently because they are so popular with statehouse politicians, and any lack of transparency on salaries is an example of that. Said one teacher who contacted the AJC, “As a taxpayer, a parent, and an educator, I feel Georgia citizens have a right to that information.”

 

Reader Comments 0

121 comments
Mandella88
Mandella88

Why don't you just ask Lou Erste at the GA DOE?  Rumors around the state are the he sees himself as King and Lord Protector of all things charter in the state.  He ultimately controls everything (who gets awarded charter status, who does not; how the laws are interpreted; how much funding local systems must give to charter schools).  Many wonder if he uses his authority to attempt to control local boards of education, making them comply with his decisions as to which schools he believes should be awarded charter status.  It would very interesting for the AJC to dig deeper into his office and the state's Charter Advisory Committee.  Maybe start in Cleveland, Ohio for some good info...

gactzn2
gactzn2

Considering the grievous financial malfeasance of charter school startups in sister states, you would think that Georgia would know better than to hold the door open to allow for the ravenous feeding at the (financial) troughs.  Are they aware, or, are they pretending to not be aware?  You know- Don't ask permission (lack of strict charter oversight etc.)- ask for forgiveness (sorry we wasted all of your tax payer dollars due to the lack of oversight- we will do better- LATER).  No transparency= No evidence and no accountability for fraud- signaling this has entirely different motivations than what is being presented to the public.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@To all, Blog is acting strange today and deleted some of the most recent comments. Please repost if your comment disappeared.

traderjoe9
traderjoe9

@MaureenDowney  Ha! I can't tell you how many times this has happened to me particularly after I'd spent some time composing a rather lengthy post. Now I try to remember to copy these before I attempt to post. Apparently there is also a size or character/letter limit also. It would be nice if that was made clear somewhere or if there was a character count like there is on Twitter. And I was beginning to feel like I was being discriminated against for my views. That wouldn't happen would it?

ScienceTeacher671
ScienceTeacher671

Maureen, might I assume that the AJC will be doing a story on what the actual salaries are sometime in the near future?

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Let’s see – GA’s public education budget is over $8 billion? The governor, the legislature, the handpicked and the state BOE cannot seem to come up with a coherent plan for education in GA other than give the money to different folks? No proven curriculum, assessment plan, structure, process, training, reassessment and continuous improvement, no nothing for an $8 billion purchase?

Are they inept, unable to produce a detailed plan to get something done in an efficient way? I think not – case in point – the $58 million private school tax credit. Please check this to see that the state is able to come up with a way to get a detailed plan and execute it. They created the private school tax credit law and turned it over to SSO’s to administer.

Take a look at the detail of the process provided by GOAL (a private company that handles the money) . http://www.goalscholarship.org/about_goal/page/frequently-asked-questions

Wow! Has the state thought about hiring GOAL to create a functional curriculum, and assessment process? Looks like when the goal is to provide taxpayer funded scholarships for mostly wealthy people, they can act decisively, quickly, and efficiently. Where is the same effort to educate all school children in GA.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

In the grand scheme of things, information posted to the DOAA website is dated material.  Fiscal Year 2014 is the most recent information out there.


What I want to see is the accounting records posted in real time.  Put the checkbook register, the Paid Vendor Detail, and the general ledger datafile out there where I can do my own analysis.  Scan all the invoices so if I have a question about a transaction, I can pull up a PDF image of the actual invoice.


The technology is out there to do just that.  You want true transparency in government?  There you go.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

@redweather @Lee_CPA2

That was my point.  Fiscal year does not always equal calendar year, so the information on the DOAA website may be up to one year behind.  I think it may be September or so before the DOAA will post the 2014-15 school year information.


No reason why we should not be able to view current information without having to resort to a freedom of information request, which may cost money to obtain.

PJ25
PJ25

I love how charter schools and private schools scare the hell out of the public education bureaucrats. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

@cellophane The opposition to charters is not just about accountability and transparency - every reason in the book has been used to say why we should not allow charters - (Stealing public money?).  The FEAR in TPS is that charters will do a better job for less money and then TPS will either have to improve or "go out of business" when everyone goes to charters.

Just to reiterate - I would much rather see traditional schools improve to the point that charters would have no reason to exist.  I have regularly pointed out issues that TPS have and made suggestions on how to address them, but to no avail.  So charters seems to be the only hope. We can't all move to Cobb County (or North Fulton).

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@class80olddog @AvgGeorgian @Outer Marker I guess since we keep hearing about public school teachers sexually assaulting students, then per AveGeorgian's lead, we should close down public schools as well.....


Too funny, if it wasn't so desperate.  But I do agree with Outer, it is fun to watch the hysterics from the eduacracy.  Perhaps someday they'll come up with actual ideas on how to improve things, rather than just take shots at others.


Who am I kidding.....

cellophane
cellophane

Why is it "fear" to demand accountability and transparency? Compliance with the law isn't too much to ask, considering the blatant fraud happening nationwide when charter schools go unsupervised.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@class80olddog @cellophane


I am all for charter schools. Enroll the whole district population in the lottery, provide transportation and let parents take or reject the slot. Then everyone has the same public school opportunity to take advantage of whatever the charter offers. Also, apply the same reporting and transparency standards to charters. We see what happened when the private school tax credits were sold as a way to help poor kids escape failing schools - turns out the scholarships go to mostly wealthy families and they never have to spend a day in public school.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@AvgGeorgian @class80olddog @cellophane If a parent doesn't care enough about their child's education to fill out a simple application, then they deserve to go to failing schools.  How do they enroll their child in a TPS?

Local money goes to provide transportation and no local money is going to state charters - so how about requiring local districts to provide transportation to ALL students in their district, TPS, Charter, or Private - after all, they are all supported by taxes.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Outer Marker maybe the public should be scared. From link that Redweather provided.


"Joel Pourier, former CEO of Oh Day Aki Heart Charter School in Minnesota, whoembezzled $1.38 million from 2003 to 2008. He used the money on houses, cars,and trips to strip clubs. Meanwhile, according to an article in the Minneapolis StarTribune, the school “lacked funds for field trips, supplies, computers andtextbooks.”13 A judge sentenced Mr. Pourier to 10 years in prison.14 Given thenumber of years, and the severity of the fraud, over a million dollars might havebeen saved had there been adequate charter oversight"


http://integrityineducation.org/charter-fraud/


sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@dcdcdc 


that is for another blog. Please keep your eyes on the ball. And if your logic prevails, I can guarantee that there would be NO school, public or private open, or church for that matter. 



redweather
redweather

@Outer Marker No problem with private schools, but the charter schools do make me a little sick to my stomach.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@sneakpeakintoeducation @dcdcdc MIght want to re-read my post....  or not.  doesn't really matter.  But most folks will see what I meant - that if avegeorgian was suggesting shutting down charters because of one bad person, then the same should apply to public schools.....


To be honest, now that I think about it, I have no idea what your post means - nor how it applies.  

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@AvgGeorgian @class80olddog @cellophane Or maybe it's just how life works - some care, some don't.  


And the typical approach of the "caring ones", who demand that kids be chained to their local hexxhole public school, surrounded by gang members and those who don't give a crap, is somehow "caring".  As they get pulled into a life of crime and despair, no matter how much their mom desperately wants to get them out.


Amazing.  I have no idea how those who would enslave poor kids in awful schools, just to "stop from taking money from public school" can look themselves in the mirror.  


I guess just goes to prove once again that it's about the money, not the kids.


Sick.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@dcdcdc @AvgGeorgian @class80olddog @cellophane They "care about" the kids - until you want to let their parents choose - then they, as you say, want to imprison them in the traditional schools. 

Remember, their way of achieving "equality" is to pull the better ones down, not to lift the bad ones up.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@sneakpeakintoeducation @dcdcdc It was AvgGeorgian that started this exchange with his/her "look how bad a charter CEO can be" post.  One data point does NOT make a trend - that is what dcdcdc is saying.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@redweather @Outer Marker The reason why teachers do not fear private schools is that they are very limited and only can be used by people of higher incomes.  Also,  when these parents take their kids private, they leave behind all the tax money to be used for the rest of the students. Private schools are not "competition".

Charters, however, would be available to ANY student whose parent cares about his/her education.  They would also carry their own tax money and would not cost the parents anything extra besides transportation.  They would create a lot of competition with TPS for students.

Yes, I can see why that would scare you sick.

Astropig
Astropig

@redweather @Outer Marker


"No problem with private schools, but the charter schools do make me a little sick to my stomach."


So you don't "cotton to" public school students? Curious attitude for someone who essentially does the same thing that charters do. 



sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@class80olddog @sneakpeakintoeducation @dcdcdc


The link about fraud in charter schools posted by AvgGeorgian is relevant when it comes to lack of transparency that some charters have. Talking about sexual predators in schools is nothing to do with the topic in hand. And dcdcdc, sorry you cannot understand my posting, I think it's pretty straightforward. Unfortunately, there isn't just one bad apple when charters defraud the public: the losses due to fraud in charters is expected to cost the public is over $1,4 billion this year alone. Transparency is definitely an issue.


http://populardemocracy.org/news/tip-iceberg-charter-school-vulnerabilities-waste-fraud-and-abuse.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/04/28/report-millions-of-dollars-in-fraud-waste-found-in-charter-school-sector/

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@redweather @class80olddog @cellophane


Again. Please read carefully. I am for equal access charter schools with districtwide lotteries.Some parents are cognitively/learning disabled, some do not have access to the internet at home, some have never heard that they could even access a charter school, and some are defeated by the more difficult, more confusing, and less supportive application and enrollment process.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@class80olddog @redweather @Outer Marker Seems to me that the public money spent on private schoos and charter schools is about the same. Funny that many school reformers have no problem paying for wealthier families to to send their kids to private schools but begrudge a fair access process to private school and public charters.

Astropig
Astropig

@redweather @Astropig @Outer Marker


You can cite specific examples? Something you read in a union handout or personal observations in class? And how would you know anyway?


I'll ignore the name calling. I'm sure that you use that method in your job. It's how you've risen so far,so fast.

gordy85
gordy85

Good or bad, you will probably find that most charter schools pay their teachers far less in salary and benefits than the public schools.  

class80olddog
class80olddog

@gordy85 And yet teachers work there - makes you wonder why?  Especially when teachers are leaving TPS in droves.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@gordy85 That is one reason for the need for transparency. If a charter school teacher is paid poorly but can see that the principal, ceo, charter corporation is getting big bucks, they can voice their concern or vote with their feet. Parents could also see how much money is spent on what or whom. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

@dg417s @class80olddog @gordy85 In a way I wish all teachers WOULD up and leave - maybe then the powers that be would improve working conditions.  But no, they would probably just bring in teachers from India who don't speak intelligible English to replace the teachers lost.

dg417s
dg417s

@class80olddog @gordy85 You think that teachers are leaving in droves - just wait until the governor's education reform commission reforms get passed. That won't be good for business in Georgia if all the teachers are leaving. Just ask Kansas, Arizona, or North Carolina.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@AvgGeorgian @gordy85 The nice thing about charters is that the parents can vote with their feet (and if there is a charter choice, parents can vote against their TPS with their feet).  Anti-charter people want to keep parents TRAPPED in failing school systems.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@AvgGeorgian @class80olddog @Parents & taxpayers Sure, I'll take you up on that offer - but you HAVE to donate it to a school, you can't keep it.  See how much money APS and DeKalb get and how much charters and private schools get. Even your county school tax millage can be donated to a private school or charter.  Same with your federal tax money. Not just state money. But it is ONLY the money YOU paid in education taxes, South DeKalb doesn't get to donate MY taxes.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@class80olddog @gordy85

@classdog


I would love to see the real numbers of teacher attrition and where they are going; to other schools, public, charter, or private, or leaving the profession altogether. It would be a very valuable tool in recruiting and keeping our best teachers in the classroom.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@gordy85


Yes, and the charter school is, in itself, inefficient, especially when you consider that each charter school tends to pay their upper management more and teachers less. Also, you create a multiple layer of administration that already exists in the district office, but this time, in the charter world, could exist in many instances.

cellophane
cellophane

@class80olddog @AvgGeorgian @gordy85  the state charter supplement gives the charter school in our county more than they would get from local property tax, since our digest is still recovering from the recession.  Most of the state commission charters get their QBE funding doubled through their supplement.  It's a better deal than property tax for most of them, at least until property values fully recover.  And, if they lose enrollment, the state pays them for the kids anyway (and pays the district the kids went back to).  The state charter school in Cherokee County got an extra million dollars last year for 200 kids who went back to the TPS (and then the state had to pay Cherokee County Schools for those same kids). 

cellophane
cellophane

Teacher turnover in state charters is huge, especially this year as TPS are hiring again. During the recession, new teachers probably took jobs wherever available.

gactzn2
gactzn2

@cellophane Teachers do not choose charters and will always choose public schools over charters if given a choice.  I could imagine the abuses in a standalone, unregulated shell of a school.  Gives me the chills just thinking about it.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@sneakpeakintoeducation @gordy85


Yes,. Lake Oconee Academy is a school district charter school that is 85% white with 3.5% IEP and the principal makes  $189K for 377 kids(more than the county superintendent in the same system).