Mid-South schools spend increasing amounts of money on administration

Mid-South schools spend increasing amounts of money on administration
(Photo Source: WMC Action News 5 file)
(Photo Source: WMC Action News 5 file)
(WMC) - A new report reveals schools across the State of Tennessee spending an increasing amount of money on administrative costs.

Over the past 15 years, statewide administrative spending increases range from 8.6 percent to 10.5 percent of total current spending on K-12 education. Local districts are some of the highest administrative spenders in the state.

A report done by the Tennessee Comptroller's office found the following:

"Based on spending data from the 2012-13 school year, school districts in Tennessee spent 10.5 percent of their day-to-day expenditures (not including capital or debt service spending) on administration, which includes local school boards, central district offices including the directors of schools, and principal offices at each school. Tennessee administrative spending has increased over the past five years in relation to total spending (from 9.8 percent to 10.5 percent), but was below administrative spending rates for school districts in the Southeast and across the nation. The majority of districts' administrative spending (57 percent) is at the school level for expenditures in the principals' offices."
That scenario is playing out in all of Shelby County's seven school districts, including the six municipal school systems and Shelby County Schools.
Before Shelby County Schools and Memphis City Schools merged in 2012, SCS was the eighth worst offender in the state. Memphis schools ranked tenth. Post-merger, the trend is continuing.

"I would think they'd need to be spending more money in the schools versus the administration," resident Rebecca Mitchell said.

WMC Action News 5's Kontji Anthony scoured budgets for all seven school systems, SCS being the largest of the districts.

The 2014-2015 budget shows SCS spends more than a third of its nearly $1 billion budget outside of instruction, instruction support, and student support.

The county's seven school districts, including municipal schools, average higher administrative expenditures than the rest of the state.

SCS teachers union association president Keith Williams says the classroom should never take a back seat.

"It means you're not going to have the resources in the classroom you need as an instructor to impact achievement," Williams said, adding that many teachers end up spending their own money. "Truly, teachers spend an exorbitant amount of money from their pockets."

Parents and educators alike hope the trend will stop and reverse.

"It must change. You must have more resources that get to the classroom," said Williams.

For a look at the report, budgets, and full statements from each district that responded to WMC Action News 5's Kontji Anthony, keep reading.

Tennessee comptroller report

To read the Tennessee State Comptroller Report, click here.

To see a list of districts with total administrative spending above the statewide rate, click here.

School budgets

Arlington Community Schools, click here

Bartlett City Schools, click here.

Collierville Schools, click here

Germantown Municipal School District, click here

Lakeland School System, click here.

Millington Municipal Schools, click here.
(Link provided by Millington Municipal Schools was not working as of 8/20/14.)

Shelby County Schools, click here.

School districts' statements


  • Classroom Instruction is 68% of the ACS  budget – includes Regular Instruction, Counselors, Librarians, Special Education, Alternative Education, and Vocational Education.
  • Based on the budget for the 2014-15 school year, Arlington Community Schools has budgeted 9 percent of their day-to-day expenditures (not including capital or debt service spending or contracted services) on administration, which includes local school boards, central district offices including the directors of schools, and principal offices at each school.
  • The majority of the district's  administrative spending (55 percent) is at the school level for expenditures for school based administrative offices (Principals, Vice Principal, Assistant Principals and staff)
  • Arlington Community Schools central office administrator-to-student ratios is 1.8 administrators per 1,000 students enrolled

We have increased the amount of staff in each school this year to focus more on the classroom.  This includes additional teachers and teacher assistants.  Collierville Schools also has a much leaner Central Office structure.  Our administrators are taking on more responsibilities in order to keep the most funds we can at the school level.

Russell Dyer, Ed.D. 
Chief of Staff


Based on the TDOE categories described in this document, Lakeland School System is spending 11.25% of its operating budget of $7,002,213 in Administration (both central office and school level). While this is slightly above the statewide average of 10.5%, it is relatively low considering the small size (one school, 835 students) of our district and the note that very small and very large districts tend to have higher percentages of administrative costs. It is lower than the administrative percentages in legacy Shelby (12.8%) and legacy Memphis (12.6%). 

We have been very deliberate in making sure as many dollars as possible go in to the classroom, and we have limited our local central office staff to two—the superintendent and a secretary. Our other administrative support comes through shared services with the other municipal districts which has provided tremendous value for our system. 

Dr. Ted Horrell

Copyright 2014 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.