New Jersey charter schools (excessive compensation)

N.J. CHARTER SCHOOLS ESCAPE PAY LIMIT; March 20, 2011; The Record @ 
The director of a Teaneck charter school with about 300 students was paid more than $200,000 last year. In Englewood, the head of an even smaller charter school, with 200 students, earned $152,000 in public money for working part time.

Governor Christie has moved to cap the salaries of superintendents at much larger traditional public school districts, but has proposed no such ceiling on tax-supported charters.

To some, the exemption shows how charters — publicly funded but independently operated — are given a pass when it comes to state regulations meant to ensure fiscal accountability.

"It's patently inequitable," said Bruce Baker, a Rutgers professor who has studied charter school financing.

Under Christie's new cap for traditional schools, superintendents in districts with about 300 students can earn no more than $135,000.

Christie's office did not respond to questions about why the cap does not apply to charters. The governor has said he favors less regulation at charter schools, which operate free of some of the rules that bind other public schools.

Carlos Perez, executive director of the New Jersey Charter School Association, said the autonomous boards that run the schools need to be able to set salaries and hire staff as they see fit…

Most charter school administrators make less than $100,000, but the state numbers show 63 administrators have broken the six-figure barrier.

Rex Shaw, the head of the Teaneck Community Charter School, topped the list. Shaw made $199,739, according to the data. His actual take-home pay was higher thanks to bonus money and reimbursement for unused time, according to the school. Shaw's compensation is listed as $205,249 in the charter school's 2009 filings with the Internal Revenue Service…

The interim superintendent in Teaneck oversees seven schools with 4,500 students and makes about $190,000. The school board is looking for a permanent leader, and will be limited to offering a salary of $175,000 under Christie's new rules.

"It seems somewhat unfair that you're asking charters and [traditional] publics to compete for the same funds, but the rules are different," said Ardie Walser, president of the township school board.

Karla Foy, president of the Teaneck Community Charter, said Shaw's salary was the culmination of a five-year contract and was based on a set of unique circumstances. The school was making the leap to a new building and needed the veteran educator for the transition, she said…

With an infusion of philanthropy into the state's largest school district in Newark, the number of charter schools is expected to grow. Baker said financial reporting at the schools has been inconsistent with only about 23 percent making available the annual financial reports they are required to file with the IRS.

"There's very little accountability with the flow of private money into the charters," Baker said.

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