In Multiple States, Officials Demand Tougher School-Spending Oversight

By Daarel Burnette II — January 10, 2018 2 min read

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s call for a state “investigator general” to probe corruption, mismanagement, and ineptitude in Maryland school districts makes him the latest in a list of governors and officials in other states who are demanding that school district spending be more closely monitored.

After a series of school spending controversies, including a school heating crisis in Baltimore, Hogan, a Republican, proposed that the state hire an “investigator general” to investigate corruption, mismanagement and ineptitude in Maryland school districts, according to local reports.

“Our children need someone to fight for their civil rights,” Hogan said Monday. “There’s not enough accountability.”

Hogan joins a growing list of governors and legislatures who are demanding that school district spending be more closely monitored as states pick up the majority of K-12 costs, academic gains stall, and states look to upend their long-standing funding formulas.

Washington’s legislature, as part of its new funding formula, tasked its state department of education with monitoring district spending in order to assure that the money is going to teacher salaries and other statewide initiatives.

Oklahoma Republican Gov. Mary Fallin, attempting to close a $110 million budget deficit, last month signed an executive order requiring the state’s board of education to parse out districts’ administrative costs and instructional costs.

Kansas’ Republican-controlled legislature, has commissioned a $485,000 study to scrutinize the cost of providing constitutionally adequate school funding in Kansas.

All of this extra scrutiny comes as states face new requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act that they begin parsing out school-by-school spending, which is bound to bring even more public backlash.

Local district officials have argued that spending decisions are best made by school boards and superintendents and that the money states provide still isn’t enough to pay pension and salary costs.

In Maryland, Hogan’s proposed state investigator would be tasked with, among other things, investigating procurement, ethics, graduation requirements, illegal conduct and school budgets. The state spends $6 billion of its $43 billion budget on K-12 schools, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Baltimore schools made headlines last week after classroom temperatures in some schools dipped into the 30s when furnaces went out. The school district returned $60 million for new HVAC systems to the state because the money had not been spent in a timely manner. Hogan has also attacked Howard County Schools for an ongoing mold problem, and cited a grade-tampering scandal in Prince George’s County.

Maryland’s Democratic legislators say the proposed position would be more beuracracy (Maryland’s state superintendent Karen Salmon told Education Week late last year that the department has lost 250 people in the last decade).

“I believe education dollars are best spent educating kids and least effectively used building out further education bureacuracy,” said state Sen. Bill Ferguson, a Democrat from Baltimore.

Don’t miss another State EdWatch post. Sign up here to get news alerts in your email inbox. And make sure to follow @StateEdWatch on Twitter for the latest news from state K-12 policy and politics.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.