Audit: School administrative costs keeping steady in Iowa

Audit: School administrative costs keeping steady in Iowa
Published: Sep. 26, 2023 at 6:32 PM CDT
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DES MOINES, Iowa - Supporters of school vouchers say they’re needed in part due to rising administrative costs in Iowa’s public schools. A report by State Auditor Rob Sand’s office released Tuesday says that’s not the case. Administrative spending, which covers salaries for principals, and other district staff, decreased by one percent when adjusted for inflation.

Sand says he often hears from Iowans during town hall meetings that auditors should look into public school administrative spending.

“I’ve heard a lot of people claim, ‘Well, you know, look at the expenditures look at the way that public schools are spending and it seems like we need to do something’. Well, in fact, we just dug into the facts and the thing that people claim is happening that administrative expenditures are way out of whack simply is not true, Sand said.

Sand says the biggest increases in spending were in rural schools.

SOT: “That makes sense because you’re just not going to have the same number of thousands or even tens of thousands of students there. And so that administrative expense tends to be a little bit higher as a proportion,” Sand said.

Sand says with more students leaving public schools under the voucher program, those administrative costs per student could rise in years to come.

“As a percentage you are likely to be spending more on administration simply because again, if you take 10,15, 20 students out of a classroom, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to be reducing you know, that you’re not going to have a principal at your school that sort of thing,” Sand said.

Administration costs are actually one of the smallest categories of spending - just under eight percent. The costs for things like instruction and building maintenance take up a much bigger portion.

It costs about $1100 dollars more for instruction costs here in Iowa than five years ago. Costs for building upkeep is north of $760 dollars higher than 2017.