After all, they’re private when they don’t want to submit to a public audit, but they’re public when they don’t want to pay rent on the public school facilities they use. And look at those “private sector” salaries!
As charter schools cry poverty over the threat a new mayor might charge them rent, their bigwigs raked in the big bucks — with at least 16 earning more than the city schools chancellor.
The outsize paychecks have even ballooned, with the top three execs chalking up raises of at least $99,000 in four years’ time.
While Chancellor Dennis Walcott earns $212,614 for overseeing more than 1,600 public schools, Village Academies Network CEO Deborah Kenny, who founded just two schools, scored $499,146 — tax returns for the 2011-12 school year show.
“Charter schools should be able to pay rent if they can pay outrageous, almost blasphemous, amounts of money,” said Community Education Council 14 president Tesa Wilson.
Charter school boards defend the top salaries in part by noting they’re not relying on the public dime to attract their talent, while at the same time arguing they’re public schools that deserve public space.
“Leadership salaries are competitive and come from private donations and do not take so much as a dollar from schools or students,” said Ed Lewis, former board chairman of Harlem Village Academies, which, he noted, is now expanding its work to include a school of education.
Success Academy Charter Schools’ board chairman, Joel Greenblatt, whose private foundation paid more than half of the $475,244 Eva Moskowitz reported on the Success tax forms, said the kids would face cuts if the schools got charged rent.
“We pay competitively with other similarly sized nonprofits because attracting managerial talent makes our schools better,” he said.
“Cutting our school budgets so we can afford tens of millions of dollars in rent would just hurt children.”
[…] At the same time, the next mayor might not want to tack rent to high pay, because it would simply set up “perverse incentives” for leaders’ finding a way to further mask their earnings, said Rutgers professor Bruce Baker, who noted there are great disparities among the charter schools’ access to wealth.
“These salaries may be one indicator of which schools have more access to outside resources than others,” Baker said.
Tallies of top earners are already incomplete, since a dozen charter schools are managed by three for-profit companies that don’t have to release their tax returns.
The people I know who teach locally tell me it’s the same thing here, and describe charter schools as top-heavy with administrative personnel — many of who are coincidentally related to the CEO. Freedom!