Raleigh, N.C. — The names of charter school teachers and their salaries should remain a public record, Gov. Pat McCrory and senior members of the Senate said Monday.
Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, said he expected to "fix" the bill before lawmakers send it to the governor, who threatened to veto the measure if it came to him with the exemption language.
Charter schools are publicly funded but privately run. Under state law, they are public schools and subject to many of the same laws that govern traditional public schools run by county systems.
The bill in question makes a number of changes to the state's charter school laws, including several designed to speed the approval of new charters, and includes language instructing charters not to discriminate in admissions based on race, gender or sexual preference.
Authors of the bill also included a measure clarifying that charter school personnel records were public in the same way that the names and salaries of public school employees are now.
When the measure was on the House floor, members added an amendment that would have exempted a charter school teacher's name from public record. Other information, such as salaries and position titles would remain public.
During debate on the House floor, backers of the amendment pointed out that charter schools can pay their teachers based on factors other than seniority. Revealing their names and salaries could upset those who didn't get bonuses.
But opponents say the state needs to be transparent in how taxpayer money is used.
“We need transparency of salary information for all public schools – both traditional and charter schools," McCrory said in a statement. "I will veto any attempt to hide the names of charter school employees from the public record, and I encourage the General Assembly to pass the legislation without this provision.”
Senators voted Monday night to send the measure to a conference committee. Conference committees are appointed to work out the differences between the House and Senate.
"I'm not a big fan of it," Tillman said when asked about the House amendment.
Rep. Charles Jeter, R-Mecklenburg, the amendment's sponsor, said he wasn't trying to block taxpayers from knowing how their money was being used. Rather, he said, he was trying to ensure privacy for charter school teachers and public school teachers as well.
"I understand I may have done it in an inartful way," Jeter said.
He added that he had asked members of the House appointed to that conference to strip the transparency provision.
However, both Tillman and Jeter noted that traditional public schools were moving to different kinds of pay plans, and they soon may have some of the same concerns as charter schools.
"It probably deserves more conversation," Jeter said.
Tillman said that charter schools were worried about morale problems, and those problems could in the future spread to public schools. Future legislatures, he said, may be asked to look at this issue again.