High rollers in the Big Easy

Some charter school principals in New Orleans are making big bucks. Critics howl that no principal should get this kind of money--$200,000 a year in one case--from taxpayers. But before we get carried away by populist outrage, let's recall that charter schools are supposed to have autonomy, in particular over their budgets, specifically so that they can spend dollars in the ways they think best for their school or schools. While we'd love to see some achievement stats that justify these salaries, paying handsomely for what Jim Huger, chairman of Lafayette Parish's charter board, calls a "proven commodity" is these schools' prerogative. Powerful reform-minded principals can be the backbone of a successful school. Moreover, launching and sustaining new schools in NOLA, with its post-Katrina logistical and demographic challenges, is understandably taxing. And charter principals pick up some of the duties, such as overseeing finances and teacher and student recruitment, that are typically handled by (well-paid) superintendents in traditional public schools. Finally, these principals are at-will employees. Unlike their $60-80,000 a year traditional counterparts, subpar performance is followed by a quick exit. If performance is up to snuff, let's cut these schools some slack; that was, after all, the whole premise of charters in the first place.

"Local school principals' pay reaches new heights," by Brian Thevenot, The New Orleans Times-Picayune, May 17, 2009

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