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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.

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.”


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.