Maryland's K12 Public School Compensation Transparency

Case studies of the dismal politics, policy, and practice of
K12 compensation transparency in Maryland

The modern world has attained its leaps in productivity because of the division of labor. The person who delegates a task to a specialist is the principal, and the specialist is the agent. In principal-agent theory, the principal must be able to easily monitor the performance of its agent. Otherwise, the agent has an incentive to engage in opportunistic behavior, which results in agency loss.

In a democracy, citizens are the principal and government workers the agent. Accordingly, it is vital that citizens can at least monitor the pay, if not the performance, of its government workers. It is hard to find a politician who doesn’t agree with this principle in theory. The problem has been in the practice, where at least in Maryland public officials have either turned a blind eye or actually encouraged either the nonreporting or misleading reporting of the pay of government workers, including K-12 employees.

This website highlights some practical difficulties accessing K12 public school compensation data in Maryland, especially via the Public Information Act. It was born out of my disgust at the shenanigans some public school officials play when the public seeks to access controversial compensation information, and the cowardice and hypocrisy of Maryland lawmakers in turning a blind eye to this problem.

The politics of addressing this problem in Maryland are admittedly awful. But the problem will presumably eventually be solved because it is a fundamental tenet of democracy that the people should know both how and what their government agents are paid.

I am a former public school board member with a Ph.D. in American Government and an MBA.  This website compiles some of my research for a variety of publications.

--J.H. Snider

October 12, 2021

J.H. Snider Publications

Snider, J.H., Pittman falls short on transparency pledgeCapital, January 13, 2022.

Snider, J.H., “Create a Watchdog Branch of Government,” in Fixing American Politics: Solutions for the Media Age, Routledge, November 30, 2021.

Snider, J.H., Maryland Needs a New Open Government ParadigmMaryland Matters, October 29, 2021.

Snider, J.H., The General Assembly’s Make-Believe ‘Open Government’ LegislationMaryland Matters, February 26, 2021.

Snider, J.H., When Schools Are Hostile to Online Course Choice, Maryland Matters, January 24, 2021.

Snider, J.H., Anne Arundel schools block students from taking the best outsourced online coursesCapital, January 3, 2021.

Snider, J.H., Make Covid-Era K-12 Local Education More Like Daycare: Small-scale “nurture centers” can support remote learning for children of parents who aren’t available to homeschool, Education Next, July 20, 2020.

Snider, J.H., The illegal cover-up of Maryland’s anti-choice distance-learning policiesWashington Examiner, June 17, 2020.

Snider, J.H., Story of the Day, Choice Media TV, April 25, 2020.

Snider, J.H., Teachers’ unions share responsibility for mediocre distance education, The Capital, April 5, 2020.

Snider, J.H., Government TransparencyCapital, March 2, 2020. Note: this is a letter-to-the-editor, not article.

Snider, J.H., Testimony before the Maryland Senate’s Education Committee on Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, February 17, 2020.

Snider, J.H., Having a parent who excels at local public-school politics shouldn’t be a precondition for a child to get a good teacher, The Hechinger Report, December 30, 2019. (Provides insight into why parents don’t fight for K12 compensation transparency.)

Snider, J.H., Teacher Salaries, Capital, December 14, 2019. Note: this is a letter-to-the-editor, not article.

Snider, J.H., The growing and hidden pay gap between junior and senior teachers is a disgrace, Washington Post, July 19, 2019, p. C4.

Snider, J.H., Should Anne Arundel raise local taxes to fund increased senior teacher pay?, Washington Post, June 13, 2019. For the original article links, see here.

Snider, J.H., Schools must improve spending transparency, Capital, January 3, 2019. Note: this is a letter-to-the-editor, not article.

Snider, J.H., Prince George’s County pension-spiking is ripping off Maryland taxpayers, Washington Examiner, September 17, 2018.

Snider, J.H., Seek equal pay for equal work? Don’t become a K-12 teacher, Hechinger Report, June 29, 2017.

Snider, J.H., America’s $1 million per year K12 public school teachers, Washington Examiner,April 27, 2017.  This op-ed calls for the use of accrual accounting in the reporting of K12 compensation at an individual level.

Snider, J.H., Maryland should be truthful in reporting teacher payWashington Post, February 17, 2017.  This op-ed calls for machine-readable, online disclosure of K12 salary data, including the methodology by which it is reported.

Snider, J.H., Is the AACPS School Board Embarrassed by the Incoming Superintendent’s Compensation?Watchdog Wire, June 3, 2014.

Snider, J.H., It’s the Public’s Data: Democratizing School Board Records, Education Week, June 14, 2010.

Snider, J.H., Maryland’s fake open government, Washington Post, April 18, 2010.

Snider, J.H., Democratize School Budget Data, Education Week, May 20, 2009. These ideas are being implemented XBRL US’s State & Local Government Disclosure Modernization Working Group.

Snider, J.H., “Public School Systems Should Post Compensation Data Online,” Washington Examiner, March 18, 2009.

Snider, J.H., Need Teachers? Show Them the Money, Washington Post, February 8, 2009

Snider, J.H., America’s Million-Dollar Superintendents: Should public schools’ financial statements look more like public companies’?, Education Week, December 11, 2006.

Public Policy Regarding
Private Sector Pay Disclosure

Comment: Remarkably, some countries and U.S. states provide more genuine public transparency on private employee compensation than Maryland does on taxpayer funded governmeng employee compensation.

Baker, Michael, et al., Can Transparency Laws Fix the Gender Wage Gap?, Harvard Business Review, Feb. 26, 2020.

Bevanger, Lars, Norway: The country where no salaries are secret, BBC News, July 22, 2017.

Burkus, David, Why Keeping Salaries a Secret May Hurt Your Company, Harvard Business Review, March 10, 2016. Nov. 6, 2019 interview with Burkus. Sept. 30, 2016 critique of Burkus’s argument.

Cutter, Chip, New York City Companies Prepare to Put Pay Ranges on Job Listings, Wall Street Journal, April 17, 2022.

Cutter, Chip, You’ll Soon Get to See Pay on NYC Job Postings, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 28, 2022.

Carmichael, Sarah Green, Am I Underpaid? Too Often, Younger Workers Don’t Know, Bloomberg, Feb. 10, 2022.

Hardy, Adam, ‘Moment of Reckoning:’ New Laws Are Forcing Employers to Share Salary Details With Applicants, Money, Nov. 18, 2021.

Kingson, Jennifer A., Momentum builds for salary transparency, Axios, Jan. 28, 2022.

Pacheco, Inti, Not Sure How Much You Should Be Paid? Colorado Could Offer Some Clues, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 1, 2021.

Weber, Lauren, Microsoft to Disclose Pay Ranges for All U.S. Job Postings: Software giant’s move comes after home state adopts pay transparency law, Wall Street Journal, June 9, 2022

J.H. Snider Research

Included in the various menu items at the top of this web page are some of the more recent published sources that served as the basis of my research. Included below on this page is some of my more recent Maryland Public Information Act correspondence seeking compensation data from the Maryland State Department of Education, Prince George’s County Public Schools, and Anne Arundel County Public Schools.

J.H. Snider Correspondence

Correspondence with the Maryland State Department of Education

Highlights: MSDE refuses to provide statewide salary data, claiming that that information is exempt under Maryland’s licensing law and that I will have to request the information county-by-county via the Public Information Act. MSDE board members are sympathetic to the public’s difficulty accessing meaningful salary data from MSDE but don’t believe it’s politically realistic to try to solve the problem. MSDE blows off Maryland’s new Public Information Act Ombudsman, recognizing she has no power. To follow the correspondence, it may be easiest to start at the earliest date (the bottom post below) and then move up to later dates.

Public Information Act Correspondence with Maryland’s Public Information Act Ombudsman

J.H. Snider’s correspondence with the Maryland State Department of Education from May 2, 2017 to August 2, 2017 concerning MSDE’s violation of the Public Information Act concerning its reporting of K12 public school salary data, statistics, and statistical methodologies. The Ombudsman has no subpoena or enforcement power.

read more

Correspondence with Prince George’s County Public Schools

Highlights: PGCPS claims that the PGCPS Board of Education did not estimate outgoing Superintendent Kevin Maxwell’s deferred compensation as part of its severance agreement with him.

Correspondence with Anne Arundel County Public Schools

Highlights: In response to a series of Public Information Act requests for comprehensive compensation related information at the individual level, AACPS arbitrarily and without explanation excludes certain categories of remuneration known as pay codes.  Copied below is only the latest of a series of more than a half dozen PIA requests over more than a decade.  Other sets of correspondence will be posted as time permits.

Correspondence with Anne Arundel County Public Schools

Highlights: AACPS’s Public Information Officer doesn’t include his compensation and job description information in response to a Public Information Act request.  The PIO Officer is arguably the second most powerful staff member in AACPS after the superintendent.

Correspondence with Maryland State Retirement and Pension Information

Highlights: The Maryland State Retirement Agency refuses to provide information on an extraordinary salary increase immediately prior to retirement that would significantly boost an employee’s pension. More generally, the Retirement Agency has consistently refused to provide deferred compensation data necessary to calculate an employee’s total compensation package.