On May 28 the Meridian Star ran a column titled Census report outlines school spending.
The article stated that the 50 state average per student was $10,560 and Mississippi was at the bottom, spending $7,928 per student.
The Children First annual report 2009/2010 shows Mississippi spending $8,929, while the Meridian Public School District spent $10,360 per student, close to the national average and not at the bottom.
Every year I hear how the teachers have to spend their own money to provide students with basic supplies. Lately I have been told that there is a shortage of text books and some have to be copied and that many teachers lack appropriate computer support. I have no way to know if any of this is true but have been given no reason to doubt it.
The school district operates on a $65 to $70 million dollar budget administered by a handful of appointed board members accountable to no one.
Over the past five years they have found funds for the following:
• Most recently, a field house which is mostly locker/ offices and storage for the football team for $2.7 to $3 million dollars. Renamed the Multiply purpose building to make the cost more political correct.
• A new artificial surface for the football field. Donated by concerned groups. Really an interest free loan with a balloon payment due in six years when it needs to be replaced. The school system, i.e. taxpayer, will have to come up with several hundred thousand dollars to cover the cost which will come due every six to eight years, forever.
• New lights for the football field at $180,000.
• New track and tennis courts that were in dire need of repair or replacement due to poor oversight and upkeep.
• Currently discussing buying land to build two ball fields south of the school?
It is also strange to me that you can look up about what a teacher makes but superintendents, principals and coaches salaries are secret. Could it be it would embarrass the district if they were public?
Most of the items were not budgeted for and required bond issues. It is time the district was run like a business with capital expenditures planned and budgeted for and priorities set. If the school system really lacks educational supplies the boards priorities appear to be askew.
Most of these expenses are sports related. I support strong sports programs and would rather win than lose, but we should not lose site that they are extra curricular activities and not the main mission of the school system.
I welcome opposing views and any corrections to my facts. Getting information through The Freedom of Information Act is not free.