Salaries, salaries, Who’s got the salaries?

Although charter schools are subjected to the same accounting standards and annual auditing that govern traditional schools, they are not required to invade the privacy of their employees by publishing their salaries.

  • For management and accountability, the accounting system required of ALL schools breaks salary information down by purpose and type.  Every taxpayer dollar spent on wages must be allocated and tracked in one of 267 different purposes and functions. During the course of a year, an employee may serve in a number of different capacities: regular ed, special ed, substitute, remedial teacher, etc.   From a management perspective, the total amount spent by function is what must be tracked and compared to other schools or districts – not what a particular employee may have been paid over the year.
    Did school X spend more on special education than school Y, and how did their test scores compare?  Did school Z spend more than normal on special education overtime pay?  Were their scores better to justify this extra expense?
    These are the questions that the current system is appropriately designed to answer and which is publicly available.  These data are available for all public traditional and charter schools.

But these are taypayer funded salaries, some argue, and the public has a right to know how much each individual makes!  Your neighbor is a teacher or school secretary?  Well, look up her salary.

But scanning the NC Budget Manual at

reveals that anyone can submit a  request for a grant to cover taxpayer-funded salaries (page 16) from the Budget Director or from the GA:

§ 143C-3-4. Budget requests from non-State entities. Unless otherwise provided by law, budget requests from non-State entities shall be submitted to the Director or to a State agency designated by the Director. A State agency designated to receive a budget request from a non-State entity shall evaluate the request and forward its evaluation to the Director in accordance with procedures established by the Director. This section does not apply to the General Assembly or to actions of the General Assembly to appropriate funds to non-State entities. (2006-203, s. 3.)

A mind-numbing list of thousands of state NC taxpayer-funded grants is here at the appropriately named “NCOpenBook”:

and they range from Crime Victims’ Services Grants   (972 grants) to  Domestic Violence Grants   (1120 grants).  But not too much of an open  book.  They do not divulge individual salaries.

The home page for all of these grants is

Here is a typical example designed to help the deaf:

And their Form 990:

There are thousands of these “grants” of NC tax money to corporations with no restrictions on board makeup or compensation or salary publishing.  Why are some in the media singling out just charter schools?

A number of points should be considered:

  • It has evolved that our traditional school system lists people’s personal salaries.  Yet, the system is generally acknowledged to be performing very poorly for many of our children.  Our state is near the bottom in many national rankings.  Divulging personal information of employees does not seem to have worked to improve the system.
  • Good teachers and staff who value their privacy and abhor the intrusion into their private lives may prefer working for private schools or in industry.
  • Thomas Bus Company, McGraw-Hill Text Book Company, Pearson Testing Services, and many more very successful corporations each receive hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money yearly through our school systems.  Not a penny of salary information is available on their employees, yet they provide outstanding services and products.  Perhaps they attract good employees who value the privacy of their personal information, and who would resent the intrusive public revelation of their earnings.
  • The voyeuristic public listing of the personal information of every teacher, clerk, custodian, supervisor, and other employee serves no managerial purpose nor does it work to improve the education of any student in the system.
  • Although the NC Constitution carries a specific prohibition on state monopolies, the state fosters such a near monopoly over teachers and schools.  It is this monopoly power which allows it to invade the privacy of teachers by requiring the release of their salaries and to do so with impunity – but perhaps to the detriment of the students for whom these teachers are hired.
  • All nonprofits must file an IRS Form 990 return every year which may be viewed by the public at  The Form 990 lists the salaries and total compensation of all employees getting over $100,000 and of any director or officer receiving more than $10,000.  Why isn’t this sufficient to satisfy the interests of the public?
  • Charter Schools are controlled by nonprofit corporations just like thousands of other NC nonprofits that receive taxpayer money in the form of grants or subsidies from the General Assembly or their county or city.  Many nonprofits operate medical clinics, volunteer fire departments, senior citizen centers, boys homes, etc. and are examples of nonprofits who are eligible to receive tax payer money.  Why shouldn’t they be required to list salaries also?  Why should their employees be allowed to escape the invasive salary reporting?  If nonprofits are going to be required to list all salaries, put this requirement in General Statute 55A to cover all nonprofits, and not just pick on nonprofits that operate schools.

If invading the privacy of workers receiving tax money is such a good idea, let’s cover everyone!  Amend GS 55A.  But wait, only 28.7% of our low-income children in the entire state passed the reading tests last year.  Maybe all this intrusive salary publishing is hurting, not helping!

For a more informative measure on the total performance and accountability of charter schools and districts, we should consider how much money a school or district spends for each end-of-grade test that its students pass.  A sample of these measures can be seen at “Charter schools need to tell taxpayers what they are getting for their money.”



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