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Editorial: Charters Should Follow APS Transparency Move

Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Winston Brooks gets an “A+” for going beyond requirements in the Sunshine Portal Transparency Act.

The law, which starts in July, requires school districts to post their “checkbooks” online — real estate holdings, salary schedules and policies, and a directory of all employee positions by school, title and salary. Brooks says APS will go further, as the city and state have done recently, and include names of employees and their salaries as well. Not only does his move uphold the law’s “spirit of transparency,” it makes the information meaningful to the parents and taxpayers seeking it.

Charter schools should quickly follow suit.

According to the New Mexico Department of Education, there are 44 locally authorized and 40 state authorized charter schools; next year 11 more will open their doors.

They should all open their financial books as well by posting meaningful salary information. All are public schools that depend on public money to operate, and thus should be publicly held accountable for how they spend that money.

Sarah Welsh, the executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, explains that nine of the state’s top 10 employers by number of employees “are government agencies. … Salary and employment transparency helps assure people that those jobs are being distributed fairly, and it just helps everybody feel good about the process.”

The information should help boost confidence in charter schools shaken by a handful of money scandals involving nepotism and six-figure salaries. Secrecy feeds that lack of accountability and unfairly hurts the reputations of those charters that provide a high-quality alternative to traditional public schools on tighter budgets.

The bottom line is this: like traditional public schools, charters are publicly funded schools given flexibility in how they operate, not in how they need to be accountable to the public. They should put APS’ transparency lesson into practice.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.