RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory threatened to veto a bill Monday that would shield charter school teachers from publicly disclosing their names and salaries.
The governor asked the General Assembly to remove the provision, which is in a larger bill on charter school changes, before it reaches his desk. Lawmakers from both chambers agreed. The House passed the bill last week and the Senate rejected it Monday.
"We need transparency of salary information for all public schools — both traditional and charter schools," McCrory said in a written statement. "I will veto any attempt to hide the names of charter school employees from the public record and I encourage the General Assembly to pass the legislation without this provision."
Rep. Charles Jeter, who sponsored the provision, was apologetic about it. He said he now wants it out of the bill and said it would be removed. Jeter, R-Mecklenburg, said he did not intend to prevent members of the public from getting information about the charter schools they fund.
"My intent was better than it was apparently drafted," he said. "I learn from my mistakes ... the manner in which it was done was in-artful, at best."
But Jeter questioned how knowing teacher's names and salaries becomes a matter of true public purpose, and whether it needlessly exposes them.
"I do think teachers deserve some privacy, either charter or private schools," he said.
A better way to examine how teachers are paid and if it's equal and fair, might be to require that gender be attached to pay figures instead of names, he said.
Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, asked the Senate not to concur with the House version, and confirmed that the shield provision would be changed in conference committee.
"We have to be transparent," he said. "It's public money, is it not?"
Tillman said that although charter school teachers and traditional public school teachers are paid with public money, charter school teachers are paid based on merit, so when salaries are disclosed it can cause low morale.
If public school teachers were to move to a merit pay system, the policy might have to be revisited, said Tillman.
"But transparency trumps teacher morale," he said.
The bill makes several other changes to North Carolina's charter school laws, including a provision that would prohibit schools from discriminating against students based on their sexual orientation. It would also allow schools with single gender missions to limit admission to boys or girls. Charter school teachers also would be allowed to serve on the school's board of directors as non-voting members. The bill would make charter renewals valid for 10 years, unless specific conditions warrant a shorter charter. It also allows a school to expand by one grade per year if it is in good fiscal health and performing well, subject to review by the State Board of Education.