Saturday, February 4, 2017

NOLA Charters and Bloated Bureaucracy

Remember how the charter school industry was going to be a lean, mean, educatin' machine. That is repeatedly turning out to be not particularly true.

Take this recent study from New Orleans, home of the charter industry's greatest opportunity, the hurricane-fueled chance to set up a chartertastic free-for-all. The ways in which this is failing are legion and oft-reported. For the moment we're just going to focus on this singular failure.

From a report on the study published by The Lens, a NOLA news site:

Overall, New Orleans schools — the vast majority of which are charters — spent $1,358 more per pupil on operating expenses, or 13 percent, than a control group in the 2013-14 school year.

Administrative spending increased $699 per student, or 66 percent, compared to the control group. Meanwhile, instructional spending dropped by $706 per student, or about 10 percent.

In other words, taxpayers are paying for far more administration in their schools than they would have been had the district stayed on centralized, single district.

This is not a shock. If you are having trouble making ends meet with one home, you don't fix the problem by buying a second one. And you can't operate several schools with hte money you previously used to operate just one. And if you like this idea couched in proper econo-talk, try this quote from Christian Buerger of the Education Research Alliance

If you decentralize an entire district, there’s a loss in economies of scale. And the study found that despite claims that charters would cut through all the red tape, they spent far more on red tapery. Charters are also fond of hiring contractors for various tasks, another not-very-cost-effective method of operating.

And that's before we even get to the specific issue of what these new layers of fat, happy administrators are being paid. The examples in charterdom are legion. Eva Moskowitz is paid more to run her NYC charter chain than the head of the entire NYC public school system is paid. Just today this week, we get this story from Los Angeles wherein the head of a small charter chain is paid more than the chief of the entire Los Angeles public school system. In a charter choice system, we routinely take one well-paid school superintendent and add several more even-better-paid school chiefs. With a charter choice system, you get more administrators, and they are often paid more. It's like replacing your Yugo with a fleet of Lexus.

This is neither lean nor mean, but it's attractively profitable if you're thinking of starting your own charter school.


  1. Thank you for writing about this.

  2. A couple years ago, the local NYC press has also picked up on the whole issue of charter school executive salaries: (they've likely increased in the interim)

    Edushyster caught this article, then added her two cents here:

    EDUSHYSTER: “Today’s fiercely urgent question: why do charter executives make so much money? Fortunately this question has many simple answers.

    “1) You can’t put a price on excellence;

    “2) You are a hater for even asking the question;


    “3) What don’t you understand about putting students fir$t?”


    Peruse this list of charter school executives and their salaries, and perhaps consider (fron the N.Y. Daily News link above, independently verified from tax documents).

    These salaries were set with exactly ZERO input from the citizens whose money is paying those salaries … ahhh… the perils of school privatization:

    Deborah Kenny, H. Village Academies —— $ 499,146
    Eva Moskowitz, Success Academy —— $ 475,244
    David Levin, KIPP Schools —— $ 395,350
    Ian Rowe, Public Prep Network —— $ 325,002
    Dennis McKesey, HCZ Promise Academy —— $ 285,273
    Jeffrey Litt, Icahn Charter School I —— $ 280,323
    Steven Wilson, Ascend Learning, Inc. —— $ 269,997
    Keri Hoyt, Success Academy C.S., Inc. —— $ 262,264
    David Rudall, Uncommon Schools —— $ 252,941
    Christina Tettonis, Hellenic Classical, C.S. —— $ 245,535
    Seth Andre, Democracy Prep P.S. —— $ 245,535
    Brett Peiser, Uncommon Schools —— $ 238,384
    Douglas McCurry, Achievement First, Inc. —— $ 237,782
    Dacia Toll, Achievement First, Inc. —— $ 224,200
    Rafiq Kalam Id-Din, Teaching Firms of Am. —— $ 219,348

    (This list is a couple years old. Those salaries have most likely increased in the interim. According to Edushyster, the last guy on that list has less than 200 students in his charter school. The public money that goes to his salary — and to the salaries of all the folks on that list — is money that is not, REPEAT not going to kids in the classroom, or God forbiid, to the teachers on the front line delivering instruction to, and caring for charter school students. )

    And finally, the list includes then-Chancellor of the NYC public schools, who is in charge of educating 1,100,000 students — as opposed to the several hundred or at most several thousand students whom the folks above are responsible for. He — and now it’s a “she”, Carmen Farina — makes less than everyone on that list (16 charter operators) :

    Dennis Walcott, then-NYC Public Schools Chancellor —- $212,614

  3. A couple more tidbits on the Charter CEO high salary thing:

    The New York Daily News article ABOVE doesn’t even broach the controversy of self-dealing that is rampant in the charter school industry, where charter executives are in charge of charter school orgs that are technically non-profit, but they nevertheless contract out services to for-profit companies for which those executives are the sole or partial owners. That’s a lot MORE money on top of their executive salary.

    Nor does it touch upon the problem of nepotism, where multiple family members are each hired at six-figure salaries, to work at suspiciously sounding jobs, with odd titles and nebulous undisclosed job duties / job description.

    Even Mike Petrilli’s enthusiastically charter cheerleading Fordham Institute has written about how this troubling phenomenon — and outrageous charter school executive compensation in general — will damage the charter schools' brand with the general public, without which the charter industry will fail to survive, or at least expand.

    Fordham's Terry Ryan words of caution are below, and, as Ryan relates, they were met with severe blowback from “tone-deaf” (Ryan’s words) charter school executives kvetching back,

    “None of your business, Terry! Or anyone else’s business!! So STFU!”

    Fordham Institute's TERRY RYAN:

    “Charter schools also need to be equally aware about what leaders receive in compensation, and how this will be perceived in the larger community, which leads me to the recent story in the Dayton Daily News. That paper ran a story on the compensation paid to a family running a charter management organization that serves about 2,000 kids in seven Ohio charters.

    “The paper reported that

    " ‘Tax records obtained by the Daily News show CEO Pammer-Satow received a base pay of $168,466 in 2010 along with a $60,000 bonus and other compensation valued at $25,573. Her husband, COO Clinton Satow, received a base pay of$126,000, bonus of $45,000 and $14,000 in other compensation.’ Other members of the family are also employed by the management company in various capacities.'

    “The Dayton Daily News reporter called me and asked for my reaction about ‘a couple making over $400,000 a year’ to run seven charter schools?

    “I said, ‘That’s tough to defend.’ I also went on to comment, ‘at a minimum they (those high-paid charter executives) are politically tone deaf to the realities of perception out in the community.’

    “My comments have upset some in Ohio’s charter community who argue that as the schools perform decently, why should I or anyone else care what the leaders are paid?

    “My reaction to this question is that charter schools are only viable as long as they receive political support. As such, do stories about families paying themselves more than $400,000 a year in public tax dollars to run a handful of charters hurt support for charter schools?

    “I think they do, but I’d value receiving comments back from readers. Should we care how much money charter leaders make?"