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Pay at N.C. charter schools often below already-low public school salaries

Charter schools in the Charlotte area tend to pay teachers less than if they worked for traditional public schools, while the administrators of the privately-run schools make similar salaries to what public school principals earn.

The Charlotte Observer, in an article published Saturday, analyzed salary information from 22 charter schools in Mecklenburg County, a request that touched off a brief controversy about whether salaries for the state’s privately-run but publicly-funded schools could be disclosed.

Ultimately, the N.C. Department of Public Instructions’ Office of Charter Schools reiterated that salary information is public.

Charter schools have more flexibility when it comes to pay, and aren’t beholden to the state salary structure that made North Carolina teachers among the least-paid in the nation. A controversial state Senate plan unveiled last week would dramatically increase North Carolina teacher salaries but also cut teacher assistants and force teachers interested in a salary boost to give up tenure protections.

From the Charlotte Observer:

Most [charter school] teachers make from the low $30,000s to the high $40,000s, those reports show. Only 55 of approximately 840 full-time charter school teachers listed make $50,000 a year or more, or 6.6 percent.

More than one-third of the 7,229 full-time teachers on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools salary list made $50,000 or more in the past year, with a pay scale that starts at $35,418 a year. With extended assignments, bonuses, stipends and state longevity pay added, CMS has eight teachers making more than $90,000 a year and 211 earning $70,000 or more.

The highest-paid charter teacher was listed at $69,773 at Lake Norman Charter School.

Meanwhile, a Wilmington-area television station had this report about a Brunswick County-based chain of charter schools declining to release salary information in a timely fashion.

Reporters for WECT requested salary data from several charters school sin their viewing area, and receive information from all the schools except for a trio of schools run by a for-profit management company owned by the schools’ founder.

Officials with the Brunswick County school district have been critical of the millions paid through contracts Charter Day School, Columbus Charter School and Douglass Academy have with Roger Bacon Academy, which is owned and operated by Baker Mitchell, Jr, a member of the state’s charter school advisory board.

From the WECT article:

The company that runs three Southeastern North Carolina charter schools still hasn’t provided public information requested a month ago.

Three Wilmington-area charter schools managed by a member of the N.C. charter school advisory board have been slow to hand over information the state says is public record.

Six of the nine charter schools operating in Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover and Pender counties responded to our April 30 request for the salaries of their employees.

The other six charter schools operating in Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover and Pender counties responded to our April 30 request for the salaries of their employees. Some provided the information within days. The last to respond, Wilmington Preparatory Academy, sent its employee salaries April 20.

The government-funded schools are required to comply with the state’s public records laws as a condition of their charters.

The three schools that have not responded to the request are Charter Day School in Leland, Columbus Charter School in Whiteville and Douglass Academy in Wilmington.

They are run by Roger Bacon Academy, an education management company based in Leland. The company’s founder and president, Baker Mitchell, sits on the NC Charter School Advisory

Interestingly, the chair of the board of directors for three schools said he couldn’t talk to the television station.

Wilmington attorney John Ferrante is chair of Charter Day School, Inc, a non-profit group that holds the charters for the three schools.

“I’m not authorized to make any comment,” Ferrante said when asked if he’s concerned about the schools’ management company being slow to comply with public records law.

When asked who could speak on the issue, he repeated: “I’m not authorized to make any comment.”

Ferrante also serves alongside Mitchell’s wife on New Hanover County’s elections board. Ferrante and Marlene Mitchell are the two Republican members of the three-person board, according to the website for the elections board.

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