A report by State Auditor Shad White’s office says that despite decreases in both the number of K-12 students and teachers in the last decade, spending on administration and non-instructional costs grown faster than classroom costs.

Administrative costs have ballooned by 17.67 percent ($822 million to $968 million), while instructional costs have grown in comparison by 10.56 percent, increasing from $2.2 billion in the 2006-2007 school year to $2.4 billion in 2016-2017. 

Administrative costs are defined by the report as including superintendent and district spending, principal and school office costs not related to instruction, operations and maintenance of district offices, non-student transportation, supervision and training of non-instructional staff and information services.

This increase in non-instructional spending has occurred despite a large decline in enrollment in Mississippi’s public schools. There were 494,135 students enrolled in the 2006-2007 school year and that shrunk to 481,428 in 2016-2017, a decrease of 2.5 percent. 

That decline is even more pronounced this school year, as there are now 4.75 percent fewer students enrolled in Mississippi public schools as compared with the 2006-2007 school year.

The number of teachers has also declined 8 percent, going from 34,390 in 2007-2008 to 31,662 in 2016-2017.

According to the report, if the amount of federal, state and local money spent on outside the classroom spending decreased every year at the same rate of the decline in the number of students, Mississippi taxpayers would be spending $358 million less annually on these costs. 

Doing this would’ve increased the percentage of K-12 spending in the classroom from 57 percent to 63 percent of all education spending.

Just keeping these costs the same as 10 years before would’ve meant there’d be $285 million more to spend annually on instruction or teacher pay hikes.

A decade ago, taxpayers spent $10,597 per student in public schools, with $4,608 spent per student outside the classroom. In 2016-2017, that amount was up to $12,390 per student, with $5,411 of that spent on non-classroom expenditures. That represents an increase of $803 per student.

The biggest percentage increase in the outside the classroom spending accounts were administrative staff services (up 113 percent) and information services (103 percent).

One example of this administrative bloat is in the Jackson Public School District. This district has earned an F grade in the Mississippi Department of Education’s annual accountability grades in the last two years, yet the state’s second largest school district has 265 central office employees or 96 per each of the district’s more than 25,000 students. 

DeSoto County, the state’s largest school district with 34,000 students, has a central office with 141 positions or about 241 students per administrator.