How much is too much when it comes to compensation of district superintendents and charter school administrators?
In the last couple of months I have been asked by reporters about the compensation being paid school administrators in Ohio. In late September, the Cincinnati Enquirer ran a series of stories on what superintendents and treasurers in southwest Ohio and northern Kentucky were making, while just this past weekend the Dayton Daily News ran a story on the overall compensation paid a charter school administrator and her family to run seven schools in Ohio and three in Florida. I’m also on the business advisory council to my local school district and one of the biggest issues they grapple with is compensation of top school administrators. This is a very sensitive issue politically, especially since the economic downturn of 2008.
My basic view on matters of compensation is pretty straightforward: Highly effective superintendents and charter school operators deserve to be paid well as they work long hours and deal with myriad and complicated human, fiscal, academic, and political issues. Their compensation should be transparent (no hidden benefits or perks); and there should be a marketplace for talent. Let school districts and charter school operators compete openly for talent, and from this competition the market should help set the bar for compensation.
But, when it comes to the compensation and salary of public school officials – be they district or charter – there is also
Yesterday, National Public Radio talked finance with kindergarten students from Village Preparatory School–Woodland Hills, a Fordham-sponsored charter school in Cleveland. Village Prep is one of nine schools in the Breakthrough Schools network of high-performing charter schools that serve students from Cleveland’s inner city.
When NPR asked these youngsters how they would spend $100, their replies ranged from Reese’s cups, to a car, to a toy for their dogs. The twist: These kids might really get $100—but not for candy.
If Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald succeeds, each of the county’s kindergarteners would receive a college savings account flush with $100. The plan, which is modeled after a similar program in San Francisco, is intended to inspire parents and children to take seriously the prospect of going to college.
We applaud efforts to promote the expectation that our youngest students will attend college, while simultaneously encouraging their parents to think about the economics of college early in their kids’ lives. County Executive FitzGerald’s plan is a very modest and entirely right step in this direction.
Eric Hanushek, Marguerite Roza, and Frederick Hess provided Ohio’s lawmakers today with ideas for helping the Buckeye State retool its school funding system. StudentsFirst, an education reform organization, recruited these leading experts to Ohio and arranged meetings with both the House and the Senate finance committees. Ohio’s Governor John Kasich has promised to address school funding in his 2013 biennial budget proposal.
Hanushek, who testified in person (Hess and Roza joined by videoconference), led off the conversation with these lawmakers. He enumerated five principles of a strong school finance and accountability system. (These are described in more detail in his publication, Schoolhouses, Courthouses, and Statehouses: Solving the Funding-Achievement Puzzle in America’s Public Schools.) These principles include:
1. Establishing a set of standards, assessments, and accountability for schools that are strong and transparent.
2. Empowering local districts to allocate funds in ways that meet the needs of their students. State lawmakers shouldn’t dictate, Hanushek insisted, how districts spend their funds.
3. Rewarding successful schools and not directing additional funds to failing schools. State lawmakers need to resist the impulse to distribute more funds to failing districts, as it may incentivize failure.
4. Providing funding for innovation and evaluation. The state should fund innovative educational practices and programs, but any innovative program funded by the state should also be rigorously evaluated. Importantly, Hanushek emphasized that evaluation of innovative programs needs to be done at the inception of the program, not after the
Today the Ohio Senate Education Committee heard testimony and debated the merits of House Bill 555 (HB 555), legislation that would overhaul Ohio's school accountability system, if passed. The legislation has passed through the Ohio House of Representatives and is currently under review by the Senate. Revamping Ohio’s accountability system is required under Ohio's ESEA Flexibility request.
Most significantly, HB 555 proposes a change in how the Buckeye State rates schools' academic performance. Under current policy, Ohio's public school buildings and districts (charter and traditional) are given a rating from "Academic Emergency" to "Excellent with Distinction." HB 555 would do away with these designations and move to an A to F rating system. The new grading system would take effect beginning in the 2014-15 school year. In addition to this change, HB 555 would also revise the components and weights of a school's Report Card, enact an accountability framework for dropout recovery charter schools, and establish a rating system for charter school sponsors.
Fordham's vice president Terry Ryan testified in favor of HB 555, arguing that the legislation represents a step forward in Ohio's accountability system. You can read Terry's Senate testimony here, along with an analysis of how the implementation of the PARCC exams (tests aligned to the Common Core) may affect the state's and districts’ proficiency rates in 2014-15.