A report released today by state Auditor Shad White’s office says taxpayers spend more on administrative costs for K-12 education than most of the other southern states.

Mississippi spent 28.74 percent of its K-12 expenditures ($4.2 billion annually with local, state, and federal funds included) on expenses outside the classroom, with only Oklahoma, the District of Columbia and Texas being higher. 

Outside the classroom spending is divided into two subcategories of general and school administration and these costs include spending on salaries and benefits for administrators such as superintendents, principals and their staffs, district board expenses, operations and maintenance, legal services, and non-student travel.

According to the report, Mississippi spent 9.38 percent of its education budget in 2016on general and school administration spending, second only in the South to the District of Columbia (15.27 percent). Florida spent the least as a percentage of its budget (6.41 percent). 

If Mississippi spent as much of its K-12 budget on classroom-related costs as the state that keeps the highest percentage of its budget in the classroom, Maryland, there would be $250 million available to spend on everything from teacher pay raises to supplies.

According to the report, Mississippi spent an average of 8.87 percent of its K-12 expenditures on general and school administrative spending from 2006 to 2016.

Conversely, the average percentage spent in the classroom by Mississippi taxpayers was third-lowest among the 16 states, which averaged 71.26 percent of their appropriations for K-12. 

Mississippi spent 71.26 percent of its expenditures in the classroom, a drop from 2006 when classroom expenses added up to 72.29 of all spending on K-12.

The Office of State Auditor recommends that districts evaluate methods by which they can streamline or cut outside-the-classroom spending. White’s office also recommended that the MDE lessen its regulatory burden on districts to cut down on administrative costs due to compliance with mandates.