Maryland Public Schools Lead Nation in Admin Costs

Maryland Public Schools Lead Nation in Admin Costs

The State of Maryland appears to have a spending problem, when it comes to paying public school administrators.

The below list was assembled by Project Baltimore after analyzing a 2017 U.S. Census report on the nation’s 100 largest school systems. The list comprises America’s top 10 for per student spending on administration costs. That is, money that does not go to the classroom. It’s not buying books, computers or science equipment. Rather, it’s going to the administrators. The principals, assistant principals and superintendents who run the schools.

Do you notice anything about this list?

Baltimore City, MD: $1,630

Boston, MA: $1,297

Atlanta, GA: $1,182

Howard County, MD: $1,143

Anchorage, AK: $1,134

Baltimore County, MD: $1,132

Prince William County, VA: $1,155

Montgomery County, MD: $1,099

Anne Arundel County, MD: $1,059

Prince George’s County, MD: $1,049

Six of the top 10 are in Maryland.

“That is completely upside down,” said State Delegate Kathy Szeliga, a District 7 Republican. “I am shocked, but not surprised.”

How can this happen? Fox45 compared school districts in Baltimore (which is number 1) and Austin, Texas. The Census tells us each serve about 84,000 students. For each student, Baltimore spends $1630 on administrative costs. Austin spends $709.

Part of the reason for that difference could be this: According to district websites, Austin pays its principals and assistant principals far less (Austin: $115,260/$81,600 – Baltimore: $169,766/$132,788) and has far fewer of them. Austin runs 130 schools. Baltimore has 177. That’s 47 additional buildings staffed with highly-paid administrators.

To learn more about how Maryland landed six districts in the top 10, we went to the State Department of Education. We were told spending decisions are made locally. The state gives the money, but has no say in where it goes.

Project Baltimore reached out to all six school districts asking for a reason why they spend so much more on administrators compared to their national peers. Three offered statements.

Anne Arundel Schools wrote: “’Administration’ is not a dirty word, and our administrators play a valuable and critical role in our school district.”

Baltimore City said, “We do not know the expenses other states reported for each category. Therefore, it would be irresponsible to comment on what these data may indicate.”

Baltimore County added, “Our concern is that this is not comparing like data so it is not possible to answer this question without having the underlying data for all 100 counties.”

“What’s going on is that there is no accountability,” added Szeliga. “There are clearly no adequate safeguards.”

Szeliga says something needs to change. As a result of Project Baltimore’s findings, she wants the state to impose regulations on how school districts spend their money – so more goes to classrooms and less to administrators. Seventy-five percent of Baltimore City Schools funding comes from Annapolis. In the suburban counties, it’s around 40%. Which is why Szeliga says the state should have more say in how it’s spent.

“This kind of information begs to have lawmakers get involved with how that money is spent,” concluded Szeliga.

To add perspective to administrator salaries - at $170,000, a principal in Baltimore City can make more running a school of a few hundred students, than Governor Larry Hogan makes running a state of six million. Hogan makes around $165,000.

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