News Story

Public Schools: 'Profit' Bad For Others, Good For Us

Superintendent speaking out on school choice earns $250K in compensation; school has 15 executives making over $120K

Vickie Markavitch has been one of the leading voices among the public school superintendents warning parents about education reform legislation that she says will have "public tax dollars profiting Wall Street."

She has been traveling around the state speaking out against the legislation all the while her school district houses a non-profit that uses school resources to advocate against school choice bills.

Markavitch and some other superintendents across the state are saying House Bills 6004 and 5923 and Senate Bill 1358 will lead to “for-profit” schools opening in Michigan.

As Markavitch rails against "for profit" schools, it is interesting to note that she and her top administrators in the Oakland Intermediate School District are doing quite well financially under the traditional public school system.

As the Oakland Intermediate School District superintendent, Markavitch earns $190,965 a year on top of a $65,000 a year pension she collects from having earlier retired from the district, according to public documents.

Oakland ISD's top 15 executives make between $123,676 and $190,965 a year in salary.

Markavitch, who was rehired as superintendent after retiring, spent two decades working in Illinois and Indiana, according to Crain’s Detroit. She could be vested in as many three public school pensions from three different states.

"They like to conjure up images that anyone in the private sector is a robber baron," said Leon Drolet, chairman of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance. "Apparently when these administrators are hoarding this lavish amount of money, it’s not profiteering. To them, competition is profiteering. What they have right now is a monopoly on profit. They fear competition not because they fear profit, but because they fear their own profits could be endangered."

Danelle Gittus, spokeswoman for Oakland schools, said when analyzing the financials of any organization, salaries and profit are not comparable.

"However, I will say that our administrators earn their salaries by providing services and resources to benefit all learners, and in Oakland County that is approximately 200,000 students. Unfortunately the for-profit schools we have operating in Michigan are making profits while not serving students with special needs. We are pleased that you are able to access all of the information you needed to analyze the salaries of our administrators, as we are proud of our transparency. Unfortunately, similar information is not so easy to come by with the private, for-profit companies looking to expand in Michigan."

Jan Ellis, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Education, said there is no such thing as "for-profit" schools in Michigan. Some charter schools do hire for-profit companies to run their schools.

Gittus said when Markavitch said "for-profit schools" she was referring to "for-profit charter and cyber schools."

Another argument that traditional public school administrators have been making is that public charter schools don't have the same costs because they don't have to take special needs children into their schools.

However, according to the state, conventional public school districts labeled 12.7 percent of their students as special needs in 2011-2012, while charters had 9.2 percent of their students listed as special needs.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.