State Controller John Chiang unveiled an expanded website on Thursday designed to disclose what administrators and teachers get paid in public schools, and one-third of California’s 1,764 school districts gave salary information to the controller.
But the school districts, county offices of education and charter schools that didn’t give the state salary information educate 42 percent of the state’s public school students. That means the website information has some very big holes.
“It looks like a lot of charter schools didn’t report information and that’s actually where I would have the most questions,” she said.
Chiang's office created the first version of the Government Compensation in California website in 2010 with salary information for city and county public officials. It was a response to the corruption scandal in the city of Bell where public officials paid themselves high salaries and benefits.
“We wanted to make sure that residents of communities have meaningful information about their public servants,” Chiang said.
“It’s a good step to have this kind of transparency,” said California State University Professor Sarah Hill, an expert on education finance.
Hill is talking about the more than 1,000 charters schools in California and the cases of financial fraud among charter school administrators that surfaced in recent years.
Controller Chiang acknowledges the website is incomplete without salary information on charter school administrators.
The lack of the information “only hurts the process,” he said.
There’s no requirement for public schools to hand over salary data of their employees to the state controller. Cities and counties are required to report such information.
The data is from 2013. A brief look at the website showed a teacher at Newport Harbor High School earned a $126,000 yearly salary, the superintendent of Orange Unified earned $234,000 yearly, and the superintendent of Downey Unified earned $165,000.
Hill warned the website doesn’t do very much to put the information into context.
“How does this compare to other states? Is it a lot? Is this not a lot? I’m always a little bit wary of whether the public will be asking those kinds of questions,” she said.
Controller Chiang wants 100 percent of schools to release salary information for next year’s rollout. Rather than legislative action by Sacramento, he said, public pressure would be a quicker way to get schools to hand over the information.
“I think people should ask their local leaders to do the right thing, to share the information.”