East Valley (AZ) charter schools

VEIL OVER CHARTER SCHOOL PAY, June 19, 2004, East Valley Tribune (Mesa, AZ)

A majority of East Valley charter schools refuse to disclose administrator salaries despite being funded with tax dollars, a two-month Tribune investigation has found.

Requests for principal salary records, which are routinely available from all 13 East Valley school districts, were sent last month to 81 East Valley charter schools. Overall, about two-thirds either ignored the requests or declined to grant access.

The secrecy of charter schools on the topic leaves school districts largely on their own to face public scrutiny on whether enough money is reaching the classroom…

"I think it's horrid that district schools are under strict guidelines, and charter schools are not," [a former parent] said. "It's still my tax money going to these schools."

At least 28 East Valley charter schools agreed that tax money should be spent openly.

"We are public schools, we are publicly funded, and everything should be open to the public," said Michael Matwick, president of Pinnacle Education in Tempe. His company operates WestMark High School in Chandler and Pinnacle High School in Mesa, which both shared principal salaries promptly.

Many charter schools, however, took a different view…

"I can see no argument for not releasing salary information when you're being paid with public funds," [Tim Hogan, an attorney with the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest] said…

But Rob Melnick, director of the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University, said charter schools commit a policy blunder - regardless of what the law says - when they refuse to share basic information that school districts freely make available.

He said charter schools that keep records secret make it look like they have something to hide and invite trouble.

"They should not be worrying about their rights under the law," Melnick said. "They should be disclosing."

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