Michigan bill would require charter schools to disclose teacher, staff salaries

Students watch as their teacher writes on the whiteboard in a classroom.
A bill in the Michigan House of Representatives calls for charter schools to list the average salaries of new and veteran teachers, as well as support staff, on school websites. (Maskot / Getty Images)

Proposed legislation would require Michigan charter schools to tell the public how much they pay their teachers and support staff.

Rep. Matt Koleszar, the chair of the House Education Committee who introduced the legislation, described the bill as a tool to help new teachers make career decisions.  “This just helps them be better informed as to what they might make if they choose to teach at a charter school,” said Koleszar, a Democrat from Plymouth, during a committee meeting Tuesday. 

But the bill would also fulfill a priority of the State Board of Education, which has sought more clarity on how much public funding charter schools spend on educating their students, and how much goes to the private management companies that operate most charter schools.

Those for-profit management companies are not subject to public disclosure laws, so although Michigan law requires all public schools to post budget and salary information on their websites, charter operators have been able to shield that information from the public, citing the privacy of their employees. 

Koleszar’s proposal, House Bill 5269, calls for the average salaries of new and veteran teachers, as well as support staff, such as paraprofessionals, food service workers, bus drivers, and literacy coaches, to be made available on school websites. 

The bill was among several bills discussed Tuesday that would push for greater charter school transparency. Others would require charter schools to post the name of their authorizer or management company on any future building signage and promotional materials.

The bill does not specify what consequences charter schools would face for not disclosing employee salary information. 

Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, a charter advocacy group, said that charter schools already report teacher compensation and other fiscal reports to their school boards. 

“All the information dealing with budgets, spending, contracts, are all made available to those public boards,” Quisenberry said. “When we say charter schools are public schools, it means we are publicly accountable. We’re publicly transparent. This is a different way to post that information.”

Advocates of greater transparency argue that the agreements and budgets that charter operators share with the public often aggregate all expenditures into a single line item for “purchased services.” That means it’s difficult for taxpayers to know how much teachers are being paid, for example, or to compare spending to traditional public schools. 

The Great Lakes Education Project, a school choice advocacy group, said in a statement Tuesday that the new bills “target public charter schools with new costs, regulations, and requirements that are not placed on traditional public schools.”

“The bills are designed to limit the effectiveness of public charter schools by tying them up in red tape and regulations not-at-all related to classroom learning or education,” said executive director Beth DeShone, who called on the House Education Committee to reject the bills.

Ethan Bakuli is a reporter for Chalkbeat Detroit covering the Detroit Public Schools Community District. Contact Ethan at ebakuli@chalkbeat.org.

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