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Wilmington NC Charter Schools Refuse To Release Salaries, Could Face Sanctions

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  The State Board of Education on Thursday placed Charter Day School Inc. on “financial probationary status” for not turning over salary information of school employees to the Department of Public Instruction.

The state gave all 148 charter school operators until the end of September to provide salaries of school employees who are hired by for-profit companies.

Charter Day, which oversees four charter schools in the Wilmington area, was the only operator to not comply.

“These schools are operated with taxpayer funds and we feel like it's appropriate for the public to know how those funds are used,” said Bill Cobey, chairman of the State Board of Education.

Charter Day contracts with a private company called Roger Bacon Academy, which runs the day-to-day school operations. The chair of Charter Day told the state that the nonprofit does not possess the salaries of employees paid by Roger Bacon Academy.

Last month, an attorney with Roger Bacon Academy wrote in a letter to the state explaining that the company will only release the salaries if they remain confidential or exempt from public disclosure.

Media outlets, including the StarNews, have repeatedly requested the salary information under the state’s public records law and have been denied.

Businessman Baker Mitchell founded both Roger Bacon Academy and Charter Day. His private management company was selected by the schools’ nonprofit board, which he was on at the time. As ProPublica reported, financial statements show that in the last six years, companies owned by Mitchell took in close to $20 million in revenue from his first two schools.

Charter schools, though privately-run, are funded by the government. Laura Cumpler, an attorney for the State Board of Education, told members Thursday that they have a right to know how their schools operate.

“And that’s what this is really about,” she said. “You are simply seeking information about who’s in these schools and how much money from taxpayers is going to pay these individuals.”

The state has given the charter school operator 10 business days to provide the information or face sanctions. 

Reema Khrais joined WUNC in 2013 to cover education in pre-kindergarten through high school. Previously, she won the prestigious Joan B. Kroc Fellowship. For the fellowship, she spent a year at NPR where she reported nationally, produced on Weekends on All Things Considered and edited on the digital desk. She also spent some time at New York Public Radio as an education reporter, covering the overhaul of vocational schools, the contentious closures of city schools and age-old high school rivalries.
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