AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Teacher pay at some Georgia charter schools not disclosed to public

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 no 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.

But most charter school teachers and principals may currently be included in the site's data because most charter schools are part of public school systems. Those systems report salary data and expenses for all their employees, agency officials said.

About one-fourth of the state about 380 charter schools are start-ups, either locally approved or approved by the state. It's unclear how many of those schools don't disclose salaries of teachers and staffers to the Department of Audits.

The state is scheduled to provide almost $66 million this year in supplements to state-approved charter schools. In addition, it will spend about $15 million to support public school systems that become "charter systems."

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."

While all the information may not be available online, Department of Education officials say charter schools report salaries to their agency, so somebody in government is finding out what charter school employees make.

Reader Comments ...

About the Author

James Salzer has covered state government and politics in Georgia since 1990.