Charter school principal gets $519,453 payout (in taxpayer money)


How’s this for outrageous? The principal of a charter school in Orange County, Fla., received a check for $519,453.36 in taxpayer money after the district school board agreed to let the school voluntarily close rather than be shut down for poor performance.

According to a story reported in the Orlando Sentinel, Kelly Young is also being paid thousands of dollars bimonthly — also at taxpayer expense — to finish closing NorthStar High School, which enrolled about 180 mostly at-risk students.

The newspaper said the payment to Young was approved by the charter school’s independent board and seems to be legal, but now the chairman of the school board, Bill Sublette, is complaining that it’s “immoral,” and a state senator is calling for an investigation.

The 11-year-old school never had a good academic record. From 2006 the 2010, the Florida Department of Education gave the school these grades: two D’s, an F and a B. Another Sentinel story cited a school district evaluation as saying that NorthStar “struggled to provide its students with basic materials and qualified teachers.”

Still, according to the Sentinel, Young had a contract that paid her $305,000 a year through 2014, a salary higher than the superintendent of the  Orange County public school district, with 181,000 students.

When Young opened the school 11 years ago, she earned $45,000 a year, the Sentinel quoted her attorney, Larry Brown, as saying. “Here’s a lady with no retirement, who at that point had put six years of her life into the school, feeling like she had to make provision for retirement in her contract,” he said.

It is highly unlikely that most charter school principals earn this kind of money, but nobody really knows; Florida law doesn’t require charter schools to tell state officials how much they are paying their leaders.

Yet charter schools have become a big business, an issue that gets ignored by reformers who keep pushing the opening of more charters in state after state.

High compensation for some charter leaders is just one of many issues with the choice movement.

Deborah Kenny, the founder and chief executive of the three charter schools collectively called the Harlem Village Academies, is often hailed as an education leader, and the organization’s 990 tax form says the school’s mission is “To improve public education by developing a model public school that can be replicated.”

Whether these salaries are paid for by taxpayers or by private donors, these kinds of salaries are hardly replicable on a large scale.




Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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