The Administrative Gravy Train Rolls On
Almost $9 billion dollars are spent every year on South Carolina public schools. That enormous figure should certainly put into perspective the bizarre reality that many classroom teachers have to reach for their own wallets to provide basic classroom supplies for students. Many of the loudest voices for more unprioritized, no-questions-asked spending on the education system claim that "protecting classrooms" is their only motivation, but a look at how many school districts actually spend the money is quite telling.
According to the Office of Research and Statistics' 2011 "Local Government Finance Report", many school districts have spent the last 6 years boosting administrative spending - and often at a more significant rate than spending on classroom instruction. While this is a statewide problem, here are a few of the worst county-wide district offenders for boosting bureaucratic spending on the taxpayer tab.
Greenville County School District: Congrats, Greenville taxpayers. You're spending $48.6 million more a year on administration than you were in 2005. Incidentally, that increase in spending just on bureaucrats in one county is more than the entire projected cost of a statewide school choice program. Over the 2005-2011 span, the growth of administrative spending in Greenville was 4%, while the growth rate for instructional spending was about half that.
Horry County School District: All those administrators making over $100,000 a year have certainly added up. Horry School District spent $45.6 million more on administration in 2011 than it did in 2005. That represents a growth rate of 6.3%, which is higher than the growth rate for instructional spending. All for the kids, of course!
Beaufort County School District: This district may be rated "Average" for its ability to educate students, but it certainly displays noteworthy abilities when it comes to making sure district bureaucrats don't have to go without. In 2011, Beaufort taxpayers shelled out $93.9 million just on administrative expenses. That's $28.4 million more than the district spent in 2005. While that represents a 6.2% compound growth rate, the same rate of growth for instructional spending was only 4.9%.
Charleston County School District: You knew Charleston would make it to the list. How could a district that has come to be synonymous with academic failure, waste and corruption not make it onto a list about fiscal profligacy? First off, sit down, and let the truth that Charleston spent $182,076,807 on administration in 2011 sink in. When you recover from that, consider that 2011's administrative spending was $24.2 million more than the district spent on administration in 2005. Despite the fact that the district was named by the Schott Foundation's "Black Boys Report" as one of the 10 worst large districts in the nation for graduating African American male students, Charleston still received a "Good" rating from the state.
Jasper County School District: This perpetually-failing school district has the dubious honor of increasing administrative spending at a higher rate over the last 5 years than any other district in South Carolina. With a 6.5% compound growth rate since 2005, only Horry County comes close to Jasper's brazen willingness to pour more money into a bureaucracy that hasn't brought about meaningful improvement for students. In 2005, Jasper County School District spent about $11 million just on administration. That number rose to $16.1 million in 2011. Again, the increases in bureaucratic spending have not resulted in a better education for students. The district continues to receive an "At Risk" rating from the state.
Unfortunately, the spending numbers for counties like Spartanburg, which have multiple (and by that we mean "seven") school districts, are not broken down in the report past the county level.
Consider that the very people who contentedly preside over this bureaucracy-centric system are the ones who badmouth school choice to legislators as a "waste of money" and "unaccountable." It's all for the kids, right?