Thursday, December 1, 2016

How much do Charter School Executives make? – School Data Nerd

How much do Charter School Executives make? – School Data Nerd:

How much do Charter School Executives make?

Michelle King, the Superintendent of LAUSD makes $350,000 per year. She gets paid the big bucks because she is the leader of the second largest school district in the country. She has  639,000 (give or take) students under her purview – that number includes charter schools which LAUSD oversees.
So here is a simple question – how well are the leaders of LAUSD’s charter schools compensated?

Source: Foundation Center 990 Finder

An Overall Glance at the Data
This is not all the charter schools in Los Angeles – this is a list of all the charter schools I could easily find. The thing is, many schools operate under weird names that are not exactly the same as their charter name, so finding every single one can be difficult. But I think this is a pretty nice sample and definitely includes Los Angeles’s headline charter schools.
The median charter school executive in this sample is paid $165,057. Comparing that the LAUSD salaries – those are the kinds of salaries that LAUSD pays its Local Area Superintendents ($171,266).
Think about that for a moment. Local Area Superintendents are responsible for areas that cover about 100,000 students. And they are being paid about the same as directors of charter schools with as few as 861 students.
I think an interesting way to think about this all is by considering the dollars paid per student to the executive. For example, at Los Angeles International Charter High School, the executive director made $170,000 in 2015 managing a school with 256 students. That means that, out of the state funding allocated to each student, $664 went to the executive pay. 
Of course, at a small school, the responsibilities of the executive are probably greater – they may have to be both the executive director and the principal of the school. And at large districts, there are many people who fill the bureaucracy and create economies of scale.
Priorities Priorities Priorities
But what makes no sense to me is that at the small charter schools, the compensation isn’t consistent – it is all over the place. Why does the executive at Los Angeles International need $170,000 while the executive at similarly-sized Wilder’s Prep only need $103,200.
When it comes to salaries – charter schools really are the wild west. Depending on how the charter views its priorities, they can reallocate the budget with a lot of discretion.
Take Celerity. They really seem to have no problem paying their executive a TON of money. Even though it says that they only compensated their CEO $256,245 – that was only for half year of work – the old CEO who left mid-year made $225,000. So the Celerity  Executive salary still appears to be close to $480,000. 
And then you have Gabriella Charter – which is known for their dance program, and was the top performing K-8 School in English and 3rd in math. They seem to have the opposite priorities from Celerity – compensating their executive with $101,196. 
The Decentralized Mess
I think that the most startling thing about all of this, however, is how difficult it is to find this information. I had to go through a pretty complex search engine on Foundation Center’s site, and then dig through PDFs, and I had to know exactly where to look.
Compare that to LAUSD, where the salary of every employee is searchable online (thanks to local news outlets).
I guess that is sort of what bugs a lot of people about the whole charter school movement in general though. While it seems to produce academic results, it also decentralizes the system so that each individual organization needs to be held accountable and there are more areas to evade the public eye. We need a centralized way for parents and community members to access the financial and operational records of charter schools, just as they can with our traditional public school district.
But I doubt that’ll happen anytime soon, so I guess I’ll just keep doing it this way….
How much do Charter School Executives make? – School Data Nerd: