N.C. officials flip-flop, say charters must report salaries
- Just one month after saying that charter schools are exempt from publicly revealing salaries, North Carolina Board of Education Chairman William Cobey and Department of Public Instruction Superintendent June Atkinson say they aren't exempt at all.
- Cobey says that salaries must be revealed along with all other information about how tax dollars are spent by charters, which Atkinson said are "set up and organized as public schools." Additionally, General Assembly Special Counsel Gerry Cohen said that charters have even less personnel privacy than traditional public schools.
- Of 21 Charlotte-area charters that the Charlotte Observer requested salaries from for its annual public pay coverage, nine have replied with the information or are preparing it, while the others say officials' mixed signals had confused them.
It's not hard to see why those charter schools would be confused. In March, Department of Public Instruction attorneys and the North Carolina attorney general's office decided that charter staff's salaries didn't have to be disclosed because their employer is a private nonprofit board and not a public school board. But that's where it gets tricky, because the schools still get millions of dollars in state, local, and federal funding. The DPI's Atkinson says the March announcement was made because attorneys "misunderstood the question."
Without legal clarity on the salary disclosure, some of the charters are refraining from revealing salary info lest they accidentally put info out there that employees believe is confidential. Still, it seems the state's officials are moving toward uniformity on the position that receiving public money, charter boards — in spite of their private status — must comply with the state law regarding public records and open meetings. Perhaps the charters still holding out should go ahead and have those records ready just in case.
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