Meg Whitman’s gubernatorial campaign never got back to me to explain the candidate’s continued assertion that 40 percent of education dollars are squandered on “administration and overhead.” But a K-12 expert at the Legislative Analyst’s office did pass along a url that’s the likely basis of the claim. Sure enough, it’s in the ed-data section of the Dept. of Education’s website.
So call it up, and let’s go over what it says. Go midway down to “General Fund Expenditures by Activity.” What Whitman is calling money in the classroom is the 50 percent – $26 billion – spent on Instruction (defined as including teacher salaries and benefits, aides and books) and 12 percent on Special Education ($6 billion).
That leaves 38 percent.
But a lot of the remainder supports what goes on in the classroom:
- 8 percent for pupil services, including counselors and transportation;
- 10 percent for buildings and maintenance – assuming Whitman doesn’t want students sitting under trees in the rain; and
- 12 percent for “instruction-related services, which includes teacher coaches and supervisors, the principal and office staff , money for teacher training, and librarians – or what’s left of them. These statistics are from 2008-09. After the latest round of budget cuts, classroom teachers will be lucky to have chalk.
General administration expenditures – the so-called central office bureaucrats – amounted to only 5% of total spending and includes district-wide activities like payroll, legal services, audit costs, and community relations.
Forty percent for “overhead and administration” sounds huge, until one actually breaks the down the figures, looking for waste that’s more illusive than real.