Tennessee is spending more money on education, but it isn’t going to the classroom

Tennessee ranks 39th in the nation for education. Is that in any part due to the fact that millions of dollars put towards “education” are increasingly going to people who aren’t even in the classroom? Could be. Last year, the state of Tennessee only spent 52.6% of its $10 billion education budget on “Instructional Expenditures,” which includes teacher salaries and classroom compensation and expenditures. You might be thinking, “Oh good, that’s more than half!” But the reality is that Tennessee falls well behind the national average of 60%, amounting to a $741.2 million difference that could have gone to teachers and the classroom, a far better use of funds than the alternative.

What is that alternative? Apparently it is an increase in administration salaries. While superintendent salaries have increased 7.5%, teacher salaries have actually decreased 1%, and money spent on the classroom experience has diminished by 9%. In 2017, almost $850 million were spent on administration costs, a 17% increase from 2012. We’ve increased spending per child by about $1,000 in recent years, but it seems that the majority of these tax dollars aren’t actually going into the classroom. The majority of the money allocated to education should be spent on students, right? Shouldn’t the government be held accountable for your tax dollars that they’re supposedly using to educate your children?

Speaking of accountability, Tennessee spends $10,016,068,043 every year on education, which translates to $10,952 per pupil. But if you go to the Tennessee Department of Education’s website, what they’re going to report is $9,122,039,068. That’s an extra $894 million that the state isn’t telling you it’s spending. This isn’t an argument that Tennessee needs to put more money into education, but rather a transparency and accountability check to wisely use the resources we already have. You have the right to know how your money is being spent, so call in. Let your school boards and Congressman know that what they’re doing isn’t right and isn’t actually benefiting your children.

Maybe instead of continually increasing salaries for administration, we should be directing that spending back into the classroom. Schools need to stop paying so much for what benefits your children the least. Nashville Metro Schools director Shawn Joseph declares, “By far, teachers have the most direct impact on individual student success of all the employees in a school system.” If we’re going to spend almost $11,000 per child in the state of Tennessee, shouldn’t that money be going into the classroom for supplies and the best teachers? Teachers across the nation have been striking for higher salaries in other states, and if we don’t change something now, that could happen here. We don’t need to be spending more; we need to be spending more wisely.

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