The second largest school district in the state, Jackson Public Schools, received a D grade on the latest round of standardized tests. Mississippi's largest school district, DeSoto County, received a B grade. While there's a myriad of reasons for the difference, 3 On Your Side decided to follow the money.
Jackson Public Schools has a $300 million budget, and 58.32 percent of it is spent on instruction. But DeSoto County devotes 70 percent of its budget to instruction.
Sharolyn Miller, Chief Financial Officer for JPS, says in recent years, cash has had to go toward building maintenance.
"If they're in buildings that are not heated properly, not air conditioned, roofs are leaking," she says. "You may say that's not directly related to student instruction, but if the students aren't in an environment that's conducive to learning, they can't learn."
Administrative salaries for Jackson Public Schools total $15.5 million per year. Superintendent Dr. Cedrick Gray earns a $200,000 annual salary, and 12 other administrators are paid above the $90,000 range.
And 11 administrators in JPS make supplements to their salary. The taxpayer bill for those supplements this school year totals $75,859. Compare that to Desoto County Schools administrative supplements: zero.
JPS supplements may not stop any time soon. Miller says teachers and administrators who coach or take on other duties will be rewarded.
"Some of the administrators you have on your list are doing duties in addition to their normal Monday through Friday jobs. They're supporting grants or carrying on actions of grants. The majority of those on your list are supported by grants," she says.
Is there any chance JPS will look more closely at the job descriptions of those who are paid the highest, looking for duplication or where costs can be cut? Miller says, as Dr. Gray settles into his job, he will look at everything budget related.
"Making sure our salaries are comparable with our counterparts in other areas," she says.
DeSoto County Schools Superintendent Milton Kuykendall takes a salary that totals just under $38.000 per year. In 2010, he cut every employee's salary, including his own, by about 4.2%. Then, he asked board members to reduce his salary of roughly $152,000 to less than $38,000. He had made good investments, and he draws 25% of his salary.
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