State Board of Ed chair directs NC charter schools to disclose all employee salaries by September 30

By: - August 28, 2014 4:24 pm

Just weeks after passage of a bill that allows publicly-funded charter schools to hide the salaries of their for-profit education management companies’ employees, State Board of Education chair Bill Cobey requested all charter school boards to disclose the salaries of their for-profit operators by September 30, or face the possibility of being shut down.

In a letter requested by Cobey to all charter school boards dated August 13, N.C. DPI’s CFO Philip Price explains that the new legislation, SB 793 or “Charter School Modifications,” does not change the fact that charter schools must abide by North Carolina’s Public Records Act as well as requirements set forth in their charters that demand them to disclose all employees’ salaries associated with the operation of their schools – whether they be employed by for-profit companies or not.

“After we looked at the law with lawyers, they ensured me it was our [the State Board of Education] authority to ask all charter schools, even for-profit education management organizations, to send all the salary info to us,” said Cobey.

Cobey requests the following from all charter schools by September 30, 2014:

A list of all employees paid by the EMO (or any vendor) that are assigned to manage or
work at the school. Minimum information to be included:

  • Name
  • Duties (brief description)
  • Annual Salary

A Budget/expenditure report that outlines each year of the contract

  • A description of the activity
  • Budget amount (sum of which equals the contract total)
  • Prior year/current year expenditures

According to Joel Medley, director of the Office of Charter Schools, if any charter school fails to disclose this salary and budget information by September 30, it will be in financial non-compliance with the State Board of Education – which sets that school on a path toward losing its charter and being shut down.

The charter school legislation passed this summer ignited a firestorm when a late version of the bill was found to contain language that shielded for-profit charter school operators from having to disclose the salaries of their employees.

The last-minute changes to the legislation came at a time when one prominent Wilmington-based charter school operator, Baker A. Mitchell, Jr., had been fighting media requests for months that asked him to fully disclose the salaries of all employees associated with his charter schools –teachers as well as employees of his for-profit education management company, Roger Bacon Academy.

Mitchell operates four charter schools in North Carolina, from which he has personally profited in the amount of 16 million taxpayer dollars in management fees over the past several years. He is also deeply involved in charter school politics at the state level.

Before signing the bill, Gov. Pat McCrory had said he would veto any legislation that shielded charter school salaries from the public eye.

“I still share my previous concerns with transparency for charter schools…lawyers are currently reviewing the interpretations of this new law and I won’t take action on the legislation until we have a clear interpretation on transparency,” McCrory said upon learning of the changes to SB 793 that limited charter school transparency.

The Governor ultimately signed the bill, but said he’d ask Chairman Cobey to ensure that contracts with private entities also require the disclosure of salary information.

Reached by phone, a spokesperson for Baker Mitchell’s Roger Bacon Academy was not able to comment on whether or not they would comply with the salary disclosure request by September 30.

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Lindsay Wagner

Lindsay Wagner, former Education Reporter for N.C. Policy Watch. Wagner now works as a Senior Writer and Researcher at the NC Public School Forum. She has also worked for the American Federation of Teachers in Washington, D.C., as a writer and researcher focusing on higher education issues and for the National Education Association, the U.S. Department of State's Fulbright program and the Brookings Institution and an Education Specialist at the A.J. Fletcher Foundation. [email protected]