Beacon Center Questions How Education Dollars Get Spent

The state of Tennessee has misplaced priorities when it comes to how much money public school teachers get versus public school administrators, according to a new study the Beacon Center of Tennessee published this week.

Beacon, a Nashville-based free market think tank, also reported fewer taxpayer dollars make their way into the classroom than are supposed to.

When taking inflation into account, teacher salaries have decreased by 1 percent while administrator salaries have risen by 7.5 percent, the study reported.

The average state, the study went on to say, spends 60 percent of its education budget in the classroom. In Tennessee, barely 52 percent of education spending makes its way into class.

Despite an increase in overall spending in the last six years, there has been a 9 percent decrease in spending in the classroom on items such as textbooks and technology, according to the study.

“This brief shows that, despite calls from some for more education spending, our current priorities are completely out of line,” said Beacon Center Policy Coordinator Ron Shultis in a press release.

“We are dedicating more and more money to administration and administrative salaries, which have little to no impact on the education of children. At the same time, we are paying our teachers less and spending less on classroom supplies and textbooks.”

According to the study, Tennessee has increased spending by roughly $1,000 per student in recent years.

“Ideally, the majority of this additional money would make its way into the classroom — the nexus of the education system —split between increased teacher salaries and supplies and materials to improve students’ experience in the classroom (such as textbooks, materials, and technology),” according to the study.

“However, that is not how the money is actually spent.”

Just $5.3 billion or 52.6 percent of the $10 billion spent statewide in fiscal year 2017 actually went to instructional expenditures, which consists of teacher and classroom compensation and other classroom expenditures, according to the study.

Despite growing enrollment, funding for the student’s classroom experience has seen a decline of over 17 percent in relative spending and a near 9 percent decline in actual spending in recent years, the study said.

The study is the first in a two-part series focused on education spending in Tennessee. Part two, which will offer solutions of how to better spend existing taxpayer dollars, is scheduled for release in the next few weeks, according to the press release.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Image “Education at every age” by the Beacon Center of Tennessee.








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