School Administrators say K12 Audit may be misleading

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JEFFERSON CITY - School administrators say a new audit showing they have fared better than teachers on salary increases could be misleading.

In a statement to KOMU, the Missouri Association of School Administrators or MASA, offered this response:

“The Missouri State Auditor’s Office audit of school district salaries provides some important information that can be helpful to school districts,” the statement said. “However, the audit does not paint a fully accurate picture of local school district budgets.”

In its statement MASA emphasized:

  • Salaries are set at the local level
  • Charter schools are skewing the statewide data
  • There’s been a significant increase in the number of teachers over the past six years
  • Benefits and insurance are not included in salaries
  • It does not believe that small districts should be consolidated

The report from the state auditor supports Gov. Eric Greitens critique of the state’s education system regarding unequal pay between teachers and administrators.

The audit surveyed per-student spending for both administrators and teachers from 2012 to 2016. The results showed school districts are spending 9 percent more on teachers and 14 percent more on administrators. For charter schools, teacher spending declined by 1 percent and administration costs grew about 18 percent. 

The report also said administration expenditures aren’t consistently recorded between schools and aren’t always properly recorded. During the 2015-2016 school year, 35 school districts and 25 charter schools did not report a superintendent, executive director or administrator salary to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education or DESE.

DESE said it does what it can to make sure schools report information correctly.

“We do multiple trainings in multiple different ways for school districts to code their data in the correct way,” said Sarah Potter, communications coordinator for DESE. "At some point, its up to them to properly code that data. We do what we can to check it but we have thousands of schools throughout the state and it's very tough to check every school and all of the information that they're entering." 

DESE said it's changed the definition of administrator salary to encourage schools to report the full package of benefits that superintendents and administrators receive. 

For the future, Potter said, the department will keep reforming its training to help gather more accurate data from schools.

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