Auditor examines education spending

Published: Nov. 19, 2019 at 6:40 PM CST
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How are your tax dollars being spent? That's at the heart of the questions the state auditor is asking as he digs deeper into the data on school spending. out

And the lesson the financial books are teaching State Auditor Shad White, he says, is that Mississippi is spending much more money outside the classroom than our neighboring southern states.

White is on round two of looking at school spending. April's report revealed enough that he says it warranted a closer look.

"Money was going at an increasing rate to administrative costs at a faster clip than it was going inside the classroom," White said.

The first report was met with pushback from The Parents' Campaign that called it a 'hit piece' in an attempt to give political cover to the legislature for refusing to pass a higher teacher pay raise. White says that was never the intent.

"It's not about calling out any one group," White said. "The real purpose here is to make sure that we are putting as much money as we can into the thing that matters the most for kids, which is teachers."

The new angle is comparison. Mississippi's outside-the-classroom spending percentage is fourth highest among all 17 states across the south. The one putting the most money in the classroom is Maryland.

"If we were doing as well as Maryland at spending our money in the classroom, we'd have another $250 million to dedicate to the classroom," he said.

White is suggesting this is an instance where 'copying your neighbors' is a good idea.

But he notes that there are districts already making steps in the right direction. Jackson Public Schools' superintendent, for example, is restructuring the central office and saving nearly a million dollars.

Finally, he says the state needs to take a look at the regulations being placed on the school districts.

"When you put more regulations on schools, they a lot of times have to hire more people to make sure they're compliant with those regulations," said White.

If you look at just our border states, we have consistently put the lowest percentage of spending inside the classroom each year since 2006.

The auditor says this won't be the last you'll see of his office analyzing school spending. White says his office will keep looking at how the areas taking up large amounts of our state budget could be improved or find savings.

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