Highly Paid Officials Don't Always Equal High Public School Performance

Diane Ravitch is a New York college professor who once supported expanded school choice. But in 2010 she reversed course and launched an ongoing campaign against charter schools.

On her blog, Ravitch recently linked to an article by public radio’s John Merrow titled, “Who’s Making the Big Bucks in Charter World?” In the story, Merrow calculates the amount of money each charter school official makes based on student enrollment.

ForTheRecord states: As with any other enterprise, compensation for school employees should be evaluated on the basis of value delivered for dollars spent. In education, value is measured in terms of student outcomes.

Consider the six-figure salaries of two officials employed by the conventional Detroit public school district and a third who works at a city charter school. All three are among the highest paid employees in Michigan public education.

Karen Ridgeway was named the assistant superintendent for academics at Detroit Public Schools in 2011, and collected $180,000 during the 2014-15 school year. In three of the years Ridgway has served in that position — 2011, 2013 and 2015 — DPS has been ranked as the worst urban school district in the country on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

William Aldridge was appointed in 2011 to be the DPS chief financial officer, and was paid $175,576 during the 2014-15 school year. The district is currently on the verge of bankruptcy, or perhaps a $700 million state bailout.

Neither Ridgeway nor Aldridge created the problems that have plagued Detroit Public Schools for years, but they haven’t solved them either, possibly because the institution that pays them is not capable of being fixed.

Ralph Bland earned $225,012 in 2014-15 as superintendent of a Detroit charter school called the Edison Public School Academy, which currently enrolls 1,321 students. The school received an A on a school report card created by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which adjusts for the socio-economic status of students. In 2015, the Center for Michigan’s Bridge Magazine named Edison Public School Academy one of its “state champs” of education.

Success in public education should be rewarded financially. Highly effective teachers should get high salaries, and ineffective ones should find new jobs. Likewise, school officials (and institutions) should be compensated based on the value they add for both students and taxpayers.