Proponents of spending more money on education say, or at least imply, that "fully funding the MAEP formula" will produce better results for students. But will it?

Most people probably think that if public school funding is increased, most of it will be spent on increasing teacher salaries. But will it?

Obviously, money is necessary for educating children. But the truth is that almost all the top-spending districts are among the lowest-achieving districts. The inverse is also true: almost all the lowest-spending districts are among the highest-achieving.

As you can see for yourself on our new website, SeeTheSchoolSpending.org*:

The 20 highest-spending districts yielded these grades from the Mississippi Department of Education, based on state-administered tests: 5 Fs, 6 Ds, 8 Cs, 1 B, and no As.

The 20 lowest-spending districts achieved 6 As, 10 Bs, 1 C, 3 Ds, and no Fs.

Of the 19 Districts with an A grade, none are in the top 20 for spending, and only 4 are in the top 90.

Of the 15 Districts with an F grade, none are in the bottom 20 spending districts, and all but 2 spend more than the state average.

The highest-spending districts spend more than twice as much per student as the lowest-spending districts.

When education funding is increased, where does it go?

A recent report by the legislative accounting watchdog, PEER (Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review), found that from 2005-2014, school districts’ spending in the "Instructional" category, when adjusted for inflation, decreased by approximately $75 million, while spending in the "Administration" category increased by $57 million.

More specifically, the total spent on salaries of teachers and other professional personnel in the Instructional category declined by approximately $130 million, or about 8.6%. During the same period, expenditures for salaries in the Administration category increased by $15 million, or 8.1%.

On SeeTheSchoolSpending.org, you can see this trend has continued over the past two decades. In 1993, more than 41% of per-student spending was spent on teacher salaries. By 2014, that had declined to less than 33%. (In 1960, which precedes the data shown on SeeTheSchoolSpending, teacher salaries made up 60% of school spending.)

This means that the bulk of new spending has gone to things other than teacher salaries. If more money is put into the current MAEP formula, that trend is likely to continue.

Questions

Is it possible there is enough money already going into the school system? Could it be that too much money is being directed toward people or programs that do not improve student learning? Based on the findings described above, the answer to those questions appears to be "yes."

Will "fully funding the MAEP formula" cause student achievement to improve? If more money is appropriated, will it find its way to the classroom, where real progress can be made? If past performance is an indication of future results, the answer to those questions is "no."

* Click on the "Rank" heading to sort in order; click it again to sort in reverse order. This link shows 2013 comparison. Spending and grades for 2015 have not been reported, and the 2014 accountability grades are meaningless (see "Waiver Grades").