NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Charter Schools Hold Teachers Accountable

March 1, 1999

One difference between charter schools and other public schools that operate without their autonomy is that teachers in charter schools generally have less job security -- no tenure, year-to- year contracts and requirements that they contribute to student achievement. However, they usually have more teaching flexibility, less paperwork and participate more fully in decision making. If Arizona's charter school experience is typical, they also often earn more than their public school counterparts.

Charter school teachers often have job options other than teaching because they have subject matter expertise, are willing to take risks and have non-teaching work experience. Some charter schools hire only certified teachers, but overall only about 60 percent of charter school teachers in Arizona hold teaching certificates. In Arizona, beginning charter school teachers earn an average of 6 percent more than beginning teachers in traditional public schools, and there is more flexibility in pay.

  • The salaries for newly hired teachers in Arizona public schools vary over a range of about $8,000, with differences depending exclusively on years of teaching experience and the number of credits beyond a bachelor's degree.
  • By contrast, the salaries for newly hired teachers in the state's charter schools vary over a range of about $21,000, with differences depending on such criteria as subject matter expertise, experience, education and other opportunities.
  • Most established charter schools set their salary schedules 5 percent higher than traditional public schools, with merit pay and pay for special skills raising the overall average to 6 percent higher.

Teachers appear to be motivated by accountability and performance-based incentives. For instance, one Arizona charter school recently received applications from 200 qualified candidates for fewer than 10 teaching jobs.

Source: Lewis Solomon (senior fellow, Center for Market-Based Education - Goldwater Institute) and Mary Gifford (director, Center for Market-Based Education - Goldwater Institute, and vice president of the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools), "Teacher Accountability in Charter Schools," Brief Analysis No. 285, March 1, 1999, National Center for Policy Analysis, 12655 N. Central Expy., Suite 720, Dallas, Texas 75251, (972) 386-6272.

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