Public school apologists always argue that K-12 problems can be solved with more tax dollars.
The Detroit Public Schools Community District is a perfect example.
In June 2016, the district received a $617 million bailout from the state of Michigan, due to financial insolvency.
But just a few months later, in the 2016-17 school year, the Detroit district was running a $2.9 million budget deficit, according to an article published by Michigan Capitol Confidential.
That shortfall existed largely because school administrators prepared their budget based on the assumption that 45,511 students would be enrolled, along with the state funding that comes with each of them, the news report said. But when heads were counted, only 45,153 were enrolled, meaning a lot of projected per-student state dollars were never received.
School officials probably could have been more careful about their student count estimate, considering that enrollment has been on a downward spiral for years. Since 2000, the number of students has plummeted from 116,213, more than three times the current number of students, according to Capitol Confidential.
So left with a budget deficit of nearly $3 million, one might assume that Detroit school officials would have been extremely careful about how they spent their money. But after obtaining a sampling of spending records from the district, we wonder if that’s the case.
One example was the school district’s administrative payroll in 2015-16.
At the top of the ladder was General Superintendent Nikolai Paul-Carlo Vitti, who made a base salary of $295,000, a pension contribution worth $74,192.50, a “UAAL stabilization rate” of $33,652.12, and $13,106.60 for health insurance.
Overall Vitti cost the district a whopping $438,518.73 to employ that year.
Eighteen other administrators – three deputy Superintendents, five senior executive directors, seven executive directors, one deputy executive director, a chief general counsel, and an inspector general – all made base salaries of at least $130,000, and all cost the district more than $200,000 to employ, with all of their benefits added up.
Overall, 411 Detroit school administrators cost the district a total of $54,452,478.29 to employ, for an average of $132,487.78 per employee.
With all of the payroll costs added up, 369 of the 411 cost the district at least $100,000 to employ.
Considering its financial problems, did the Detroit district really need all those expensive administrators, particularly at the highest level?
The payroll included the general superintendent, three deputy superintendents, 4 senior executive directors, 11 executive directors, 2 senior deputy executive directors, 14 deputy executive directors, 15 directors, 39 academic engagement administrators, 13 supervisors and 42 program supervisors.
Here’s another way to look at the situation. The Detroit district had about $54 million tied up in its administrative payroll. And school administrators, starting with the general superintendent, are ultimately responsible for academic results.
As of 2016, more than half of the schools in the Detroit district were failing academically, according to the Detroit News.
The obvious conclusion is that taxpayers have not been getting their money’s worth. Not even close.