More on Ackerman's bonus

Ben pointed out the transparency-related problems with Arlene Ackerman receiving a $65,000 bonus for secret reasons on Tuesday. Today's DN editorial expands on that thought, and notes a few other concerns:

The School Reform Commission's $65,000 performance bonus to Schools chief Arlene Ackerman, awarded for her meeting a secret set of criteria, is troubling for a number of reasons.

In the past few months, a dismaying number of charter schools have come under investigation for the way they have handled (or not handled) taxpayer money. The feds are now probing 18 charters, which one account suggests is the largest charter probe in the country. Recent stories about outrageous abuses and questionable spending shed light on a system that is screaming for better oversight and accountability.

Amid these problems, Ackerman's bonus, clouded in secrecy, sends a bad signal about transparency and accountability.

And as public debate shifts to the idea of merit pay for teachers - an idea championed by President Obama, as well as by Ackerman herself - a critical piece of that policy must be clear guidelines for the award of merit pay. That won't always be easy - teachers themselves contend that they have little control over all factors affecting a child's performance - but without transparent benchmarks, merit pay could become a giant sinkhole for public money, subject to political or professional abuses. Ackerman's support of merit pay would be far better served if she led the way by example.

She or others might argue that she is not a teacher, and that her job is far more complex and difficult than a teacher's, so she shouldn't be held to the same standards. If that's the case, why did she get two raises on her $325,000 salary that were tied to teachers' raises?

When she was hired, Ackerman vowed to give half of any performance bonuses back to the districts for scholarships and grants; has she forgotten that promise?

Even without all this as a backdrop, it's troubling when the spending of public money is kept from scrutiny. It's always a bad policy, but never more than now.

That bit about giving back half of any performance -- wow. What possible justification could there be for reneging on that promise? Remind us why top officials can get away with this sort of thing?

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