Editor, Commonwealth:

Last week, my office published a report that showed a significant increase in administrative spending in our public schools. Administrative spending went up 18% despite the fact that since 2007, the number of public school students has gone down by 3% and the number of teachers has declined by 8%. In fact, if outside-the-classroom spending had declined at the same rate as the decline in the number of students, we could have another $358 million to spend in the classroom. That would equate to a potential teacher pay raise of $11,000. If we had simply held outside-the-classroom spending constant, we would have enough for a $9,000 teacher pay raise.

Some have asked why we did not adjust for inflation in the report. The focus of the report is on the slice of the spending pie that teachers and administrators have received over the last 10 years. Adjusting for inflation changes nothing about the increase in administrative spending compared to instructional spending.

However, for the sake of completeness, here is a key figure, adjusted for inflation: Over the last 10 years, spending on teachers’ salaries has declined by 3%, while spending on administrators’ salaries has increased by 10%.

The problems are apparent, no matter how you look at them. That is why the new superintendent of Jackson public schools announced last week that he had found $1 million in administrative waste in his district. Teachers, parents and taxpayers deserve that kind of leadership, and they deserve the facts about where our money is going.

Another question that has been raised is whether federal or state mandates are driving up administrative costs. The answer is that those mandates absolutely could be driving up administrative costs, and that would be beyond the control of local officials. Part of the purpose of my office’s report is to start a conversation about what those mandates are and which ones are unreasonable, and then let policymakers work to end those mandates.

Public school teachers are on the front lines of education — I should know, my mom was one for 35 years, and I was a public school student from kindergarten through public university — and deserve to know how the money is being allocated. I am not going to shy away from bringing light to those facts, even if it makes some folks uncomfortable.

Shad White
State Auditor
Jackson

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