Here’s a thought: What if school administrators were paid on a per-pupil basis? The salaries could be computed based on total enrollment, or, if you want to use VAM, a value-added measure, then the $$-per-pupil could be based on the number of students successfully completing the year.
For fun, let’s compare the pay pulled down by public school superintendents with the money paid to the CEO’s of some charter school networks. Before you read on, write down your hunch: which school CEO/Superintendent is raking in the most on a per-student basis? And who’s the lowest paid on a per-student basis?
Let’s begin with Chicago, where the public school enrollment (including charter schools) has dipped to 392,000 students. The Chicago school leader (called the CEO) is paid $250,000. That means he’s paid 64 cents per pupil. Factor out the 61,000 students in charter schools, and Forrest Claypool’s wages per student go up to 76 cents per kid.
One of Chicago’s leading charter networks, the nationally recognized Noble Network of Charter Schools, paid its CEO and founder Michael Milkie a salary of $209,520 and a bonus of $20,000. NNCS, which received the Broad Prize last year, enrolls 11,000 students, meaning that Mr. Milkie is paid $21.00 per student.
Let’s turn our attention to New York City. Chancellor Carmen Fariña presides over a school system with 1,1o0,000 students and is paid $227,727 per year. That comes to $.20 per child. But she also receives her retirement annuity of $208,506, so if we factor that in, she’s pulling down a whopping $.40 per child.
New York’s most prominent charter school operator is, of course, Eva Moskowitz, the founder and CEO of Success Academies. She has received a significant pay raise and now makes $567,000 a year, as Ben Chapman reported in the New York Daily News. Success Academies enrolls 11,000 students, the same number as in Chicago’s Noble Network.
Let’s do the math. 567,000 divided by 11,000 equals 51.35, meaning that Ms. Moskowitz is earning $51.35 per student, nearly two-and-one-half times what Mr. Milkie is paid per student.
If Carmen Fariña were running Success Academies instead of the nation’s largest school district, at her current pay rate of 40 cents per student she’d be earning $4400 a year!
Put another way, Eva Moskowitz is being paid about 128 times more per student than Chancellor Fariña.
(I was at a dinner last night with her predecessor, Dennis Walcott, who made essentially the same salary when he was Chancellor. The look on his face when I told him the numbers was priceless!)
However, Eva Moskowitz doesn’t come close to claiming the crown for “Highest Paid Charter School CEO,” because New York City is home to a charter network that enrolls only 1400 students and pays its leader in the neighborhood of $525,000 per year. (I write ‘in the neighborhood’ because the most recent salary isn’t available, so this number is based on recent years and the pattern of annual increases.)
You’ve done the math in your head, right? $525,000 for 1400 students means this CEO is raking in $375 PER STUDENT. Just imagine if Chancellor Fariña had come out of retirement to take this job! At her current pay scale, she would be bringing home $560 a year, not $425,000.
This charter network’s leader must not have a “pay for performance” contract. The network is notorious for losing students, as the chart below indicates. On the left, 126 students in full-day kindergarten; on the right, only 36 students in 12th grade. Pretty clear what happens year after year. In another school, 119 kindergarteners and 33 high school seniors.
The common argument for charter schools is that they are “life-changing,” but just ONE of that year’s graduates headed off to college, while the others reported ‘plans unknown.’ In another school, one was headed for a 4-year college, three to 2-year institutions, and 28 with ‘plans unknown.’
Like Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academies, this network loses a lot of students, but, unlike Success Academies, the remaining students here perform poorly. Here’s the percentage of students in one school who scored ‘proficient’ in English Language Arts, by grade: 5th-8%; 6th-12%; 7th-11%; and 8th-28%. In another school, 4%, 20%, 17% and 30% .
In Math: 5th-6%; 6th-36%; 7th-52%; and 8th-48%. In another school, 27%, 37%, 39% and 34%. (And as the NAEP scores below suggest, those high-ish math scores may be illusory.)
Scores on the NAEP, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, were unimpressive. In 4th grade, 36% scored ‘proficient’ in Reading and 35% in Math. In 8th grade, 33% scored ‘proficient’ in Reading and 31% in Math. In another of her schools the respective numbers are 36%, 35% 33% and 31%.
This same charter network has famously high turnover rates among teachers too. In the most recent report, 38% of teachers departed, meaning that 4 out of every 10 teachers left. In another school, 31% left. One thing that students in high-poverty schools need is continuity, which they apparently do not get in this network.
Oh, by the way, the CEO who makes all that money also has her own car and driver, according to Ben Chapman of the Daily News.
I am referring to Dr. Deborah Kenny, the founder of Harlem Village Academies, a network of just five schools and 1400 students. Somehow, I suspect she’s happy to have Eva Moskowitz taking all the flack in the media about harsh discipline and high turnover rates, because that means her network’s performance is not being scrutinized. It clearly should be.
In fairness, some traditional public school districts in New York State are paying their superintendents inflated amounts when computed on a per-student basis. Brookhaven-Comsewogue Union Free District has about 3900 students and pays its superintendent $462,000 or $118 per student. Mount Sinai Union Free District has about 2600 students and pays its leader $403,000, or $155 per student. And Tuckahoe Union Free District, with just 1100 students, pays its superintendent $388,000, or $353 per student.
But that doesn’t keep Deborah Kenny from taking home the Blue Ribbon in the “Earns Most, Does Least” competition.