JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - If you’ve ever wondered how the money for K-12 schools gets divvied up, this latest State Auditor’s report may surprise you. An analysis of the last decade reveals there are fewer teachers and students in the state. But outside-the-classroom spending has gone up.
“If we had held outside-the-classroom spending the same per student as it was ten years ago, we’d have another $358 million dollars to play with, to spend on whatever we wanted to right now,” said Auditor Shad White.
To put that into perspective, White says that would have been enough for an $11,000 dollar teacher pay raise. He says that if outside-the-classroom spending had just been kept the same as it was ten years ago, and not been cut at the same rate as the decline of students, the state would still have $285 million more each year to spend in the classroom. That would have been enough for a $9,000 teacher pay raise.
“Part of my point of framing this as what we could’ve done with a teacher pay raise is to say, look, everybody knows how expensive this is," noted White. "This right here represents real money.”
And it’s money that was spent on administrative costs, everything from superintendent and district office spending to non-student transportation and information services.
“The responsibility is really on folks like me to talk about how this money is being spent," White explained. "And my hope is... I’m not a legislator. I don’t get to decide how money is spent. But if we can shed some light on where the money goes then maybe that stokes action at the legislature or at the Mississippi Department of Education or at the local level to make sure these dollars are flowing where we want them to go, where parents want them to go.”
White also notes the failure to spend money inside the classroom may have had on impact on the state’s ability to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers.