Gov. McCrory concerned that bill changing charter school rules still has loopholes

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RALEIGH, North Carolina — Gov. Pat McCrory says he is still concerned that a bill that changes rules for charter schools has a loophole that could prevent some administrators from publicly disclosing their salary.

The bill, which is on its way to McCrory's desk, allows administrators, like a principal, employed by a private charter school management company, to keep their salaries private.

"I still share my previous concerns with transparency for charter schools, not just for teachers, but for board members and all employees. Lawyers are currently reviewing the interpretations of this new law and I won't take action on the legislation until we have a clear interpretation on transparency," McCrory said in an email statement Friday. He has previously said he would veto legislation that shielded charter school employee salaries from public view.

The bill was revised in a conference committee after the Senate and House passed competing versions. The House approved the conference committee version of the bill 62-36 Friday. The Senate unanimously passed it a day earlier.

House Democrats said the bill should have included additional language requiring charter school administrators who are employed by a private company to make their salary publicly available.

Under the bill, charter school employees and teachers are subject to the same open records laws as traditional public schools and other public agencies in the state.

But charter schools all differ in how they hire top-level school administrators. Administrators under contract from a private management company would not be required to share salary information.

The language in the bill is too ambiguous to protect from malfeasance, said Rep. Tricia Cotham, D-Mecklenburg.

"The taxpayers have a right to know about that public money," she said.

The bill does not ensure that public money flowing to charter schools can be tracked or monitored, said State Superintendent June Atkinson.

"I think that this law could open the door for some innovative practices such as if a management company did not want the company to know about a particular person's salary, then that person could be hired by the private management company rather than the school itself."

Discrimination in charter school admissions has also been a contested part of the legislation.

Language prohibiting charter schools from denying admission to students based on their sexual orientation was included in an earlier version of the House bill but was stripped later.

"It's against the law it's defined in state statute numerous times exactly the way tis defined in this bill," said Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett. "This language does protect all kids."

The bill before the governor does not include specific language protecting students from being discriminated against based on sexual orientation.

"The real issue here is the LGBT community is not a protected class," said Rep. Marcus Brandon, D-Guilford. "You can't draw something from nothing. Don't fool yourself. That stuff is not in the bill."

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