Friday, June 9, 2017

Repost: Majority-black school districts spend more money, get worse grades in Mississippi

Note: This post originally appeared on December 4, 2012.  The post became relevant again when the Southern Poverty Law Center recently sued the state of Mississippi over the funding of education.  SPLC claimed that majority white school districts enjoyed better ratings because they received more funding while majority black school districts suffered less funding.  However, this 2012 post reviewed the Mississippi Children's First for 2011-2012 that were produced by MDE.  Sadly, MDE stopped producing them when Dr. Carey Wright assumed office.  A sampling of the reports is posted at the bottom of this post.  The data is five years old but still relevant.  JJ initially reviewed the reports to see if there was any difference or patterns between successful and failing school districts.  No real patterns developed.  However, JJ did see what the SPLC did when the reports were reviewed by race and thus delved further into the weeds.  MDE did produce the reports for 2012-2013 school year.  A sampling revealed the findings from the previous year were still valid.  Earlier post with copy of SPLC lawsuit.

Highlights of post:
-All district report cards reviewed with charts included below. 

-Districts reviewed on # of teachers hired/Total # of employees
-Total spending per student compared by grades and majority race. All federal, state, & local funding dollars is included.
-Statistics are compared between majority-black and majority-white districts. Charts included.
-Districts over 80% of one race are compared to each other. Charts included.

A review of annual report cards for all Mississippi public school districts reveals some uncomfortable trends: majority-black districts in Mississippi spend more money per student, hire a fewer percentage of teachers, and have worse ratings than majority-white districts. The picture worsened for districts at least 80% black. They spend $2,000 more per student than  districts at least 80% white while performing much worse.

JJ examined the report cards for all school districts at A list of all districts was compiled with the following pieces of data for each district:

  • Total student population
  • Majority Race and its percentage of students
  • Report card grade for the district
  • Total spending per student
  • proportion of the number of teachers v. the total number of employees. This was calculated in an effort to show which districts are directing more or fewer resources on teachers.

The list is comprised of 152 districts. There are 83 majority-black districts, 65 majority-white districts, and four districts that are even in racial groups.  There was no clear trend by grade levels. For example,  F's weren't spending much less money than  A's. The D's had a much lower percentage of teachers than the B's.

The average ratio for the number of teacher/total numbers of  employees in a district was reviewed to see how districts were managing their budgets and if there were any trends.   When studying the ratio by grade levels, none existed:

F’s: 46%
D’s: 48%
C’s: 45%
B’s: 49%
A’s: 51%

The A's are somewhat misleading as there are only three of them, and it is not hard to skew that figure. There are F districts such as Aberdeen that are at a 51% ratio while there are B districts such as South Delta that are at 39%.

The same observation holds true for spending per student. JJ used the total amount of spending per student provided in the report cards: federal, state, local. It doesn't matter where the money originiates as this correspondent determined it was more important to calculate how much money was spent on each child. What is interesting is the amount of money spent per student does not change much when classified by grades although the better the district got, the smaller the amount of money spent per student became. The B districts spent approximately $700 per student less than the F districts. The chart below shows the spending per student by district grade. Since there are only three A districts, the amount for that level should probably be discounted. 

Click on chart to enlarge

What is interesting is that in terms of spending per student and on teachers, there is no real trend among Mississippi public school districts. However, there are differences that appear when compared in terms of the majority race for each district.

The majority-black districts hire a fewer share of teachers and spend more money per student- with worse results. The chart below shows the distribution of grades among the majority-white and majority- black districts. Three districts have no grades.

Click on graph to enlarge
As one can plainly see, the majority-black districts report worse grades than those majority-white. While it is true the majority-black districts traditionally suffer from higher levels of poverty, they also spend more money per student and hire a fewer percentage of teachers:

Black Districts: 44.6%
White districts: 50%

What is disturbing is the comparison between the two groups of districts when one looks at the districts where more than 50% of the employees are teachers and also districts where less than 40% of the employees are teachers:

Black districts more than 50%: 8
White districts more than 50%: 36

Black districts less than 40%: 5
Whit districts less than 40%: 0

The spending more student follows the same trend. The majority-black districts spend over $1,300 more per student than those that are majority white:

Black: $9,752
White: $8,409
50/50: $8,154

However, when one compares the districts among those whose total spending (federal, state, and local dollars) is below $8,000 per student and over $10,000 per students, the results follow those of the teacher/employee ratios. There are 31 majority-black districts spending over $10,000 per student while there are only five that are majority-white. There are 22 majority-white districts spending less than $8,000 per student while there are only 6 majority-black districts that do so. Many of these 22 districts are A or B districts such as Pearl, Rankin,and Desoto. However, the differences become more stark when one compares the 80's- the districts that are at least 80% of one race.

JJ also compared districts at least 80% of one race. There are 49 districts over 80% black and 17 districts over 80% white.  The trends were the same regardless of grades, spending per student, and the teacher/employee ratio. The white districts hire more teachers, had better grades, and spent less money. The chart below shows the distribution of grades:

Click on chart to enlarge
The differences between the two groups in the teacher/employee ratio is seven points:

# of teachers/# of employees in 80% or more black districts: 44%
# of teachers/#of employees in 80% or more white districts: 51%

However, 13 of the 17 80% white districts had a teacher/employee ratio of over 50% while only 3 of the 49 80% black districts had the same ratio.  Meanwhile there are 5 of the 80% black districts that have less than 40% ratio of teachers/employees.  Then there is the spending.

Total spending per student in districts more than 80% black: $10,299
Total spending per student in districts more than 80% white: $8,294

A difference of $2,005 per student. However, it gets worse: 26 of the 80% black school districts spend over $10,000 per student. NONE of the 80% white districts spend over $10,000 per student while 7 spend less than $8,000 per student.  

It is true more statistics can be examined.  The goal of this post is to provide a more accurate picture of education in Mississippi as we once again enter the debate over educational reform.  However, the report cards reveal the same trend regardless of how many different ways they are sliced and diced: the majority-black school districts in Mississippi spend more money per student, hire fewer teachers, and perform worse than those that are majority-white*  Is Mississippi education really a tale of two states: the haves versus the have-nots or is it a case of one group of school districts wasting their resources while making excuses for rotten grades?  We report, you decide. 

*Look at the Bolivar County schools, especially the grades, size of the student population, and the superintendent salaries.  Then remember they fought consolidation tooth and nail.

Blue: More than 80% white Red: More than 80% black.

Posted below is a sampling of the reports.  


Anonymous said...

don't let facts and analysis take precedence! let emotions win the day and give the SPLC a big fat financial award

Anonymous said...

All the professionals are always seeking the wrong causes (i.e. money). If you asked teachers I bet over 60 % would say the problem with public school education is directly related to lack of parental support at home. Yet that problem is too difficult to tackle so they always go back to money.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm.....looks like the SPLC got it HALF right; race IS the issue; money is not.

noel said...

Free the schools by any means necessary!

Kingfish said...

That is where the unwed birthrate kicks in. Sad part is individual teachers will say its a huge problem and affects a large part of a child's development before he even gets to school and how he performs as a student. However, it is almost never mentioned at the policy level.

I like what the charter elementary schools are doing in other states: have classes until five or six. Those kids get some stability and structure. No after school or day care crap. A real educational school day from start to finish.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the answer is both parental involvement and money? Even admitting parental involvement is the most important element in education, the lack of it doesn't mean we shouldn't invest more financial resources. We can't make parents of people overnight; we can invest quickly. If you are about to say parental involvement is all that matters and not money, then I want to see Madison Central operate with the same financial budget as some of our poorest schools. Then let's re-discuss the theory that parental involvement matters but funds are sort of a take or leave it element.

Anonymous said...

You can't fix what's wrong with those districts with money. I know from first hand experience.

My wife is a teacher. She started out in her 20's in a very low-income, 98% black district, thinking she would make a difference. Turns out she was good at it, won some awards, etc.

But after about three years, she realized that she would be facing the same thing every day for the rest of her life: Kids who could barely read, habitually stole anything not bolted down, lacked basic hygiene, and regularly threatened her. Even the "good" ones couldn't be stopped from constantly rambling about nonsense while she taught.

The principal specifically told her not to send kids to the office unless there was physical danger or theft. She asked, point blank, "Should I just stop teaching and let them run the classroom?" and was told, "Some days, you may just have to do that."

So she quit and left for another district that's about 70% white. It's not Madison or anything. These kids aren't rich. You have a fight now and then. A kid gets kicked out for smoking pot occasionally. But there is no comparison whatsoever. 95% of the kids --regardless of race-- follow instructions, and those that don't get removed very quickly by the principal.

Public schools don't offer much variation in pay. So the sorting mechanism is quality of life at the job. Good teachers like my wife are running screaming from terrible schools. And it's not because the buildings are a little dilapidated or the kids need some remedial academic work. Many of the teachers she knows would relish that kind of challenge--it would make them feel they made a difference.

They run to the suburbs and private schools because dealing with juvenile delinquents every day is hell, and the administration can't or won't do anything to maintain order. To be clear, black people aren't inherently any different from white people, but they tend to be poor and have fewer options. So when you see a 98% black school, you know it's a school full of people who had no other choice. Which means most of their parents tend to make bad decisions and don't care about raising them to have respect and basic skills.

I don't know what you do about that, except give the 30-40% who do care a chance to go to school without interference from the 60-70% who are hopeless. But I know this: Outputs reflect inputs, and you can spend 10x what you spend right now, and the outcomes for these schools won't change.

Anonymous said...

10:13 - Madison Central spends about $1000 less per pupil than JPS, and less than a majority of D and F rated districts in the state.

Take a look:

Child Support Guy said...

You're right about the unwed birthrate and family structure, KF. I've got TONS of data supporting it, but it not PC to go too far into it because then you get into the old Murphy Brown and women's reproductive rights thing, different view of marraige in the black community as a whole, etc., etc., etc. Can of worms that no one wants to touch.

Anonymous said...

It's a long acknowledged fact that remedial education and the extra effort it takes to bring long underfunded communities to the level of the more affluent will take time AND money. However, it seems that along with the acknowledgment of that fact comes a very irresponsible attitude about the priorities when the additional funding is available. Madison Central might spend bond issue money on a swimming pool or landscaping but Provine had better spend any money they can scrape together on teachers and remedial reading courses. Instead JPS spends it on their administrators and politically correct fluff, then complains about lack of funds. Nothing is more important than learning the fundamentals in the classroom. No money can be spent elsewhere until that meets an acceptable standard. Communicate the standard to the parents and students and then stubbornly demand performance. It's been done before. No excuses!

Anonymous said...

This post is racist.

Anonymous said...

@10:50 that only tells part of the story. There is a lot of unreported money that also counts. We know that student activities and sports keep children engaged. Go to any cheer, football, baseball, volleyball. . . camp this summer and you can see who shows up with the matching uniforms in the charter bus and who shows up in whatever they have on the big yellow dog. (Or, not at all because those kinds of activities don't occur in their district.) Go to any band competition and look at the trucks and vans that have sponsor logos on the back from community sponsors. Go to Oak Grove and look at the volleyball facility that Favre built and on and on. I don't have a problem with that happening BUT we have to acknowledge that that kind of support matters and it isn't considered in any school formula. When you have a district that can have supplies and services donated for things like landscaping, painting and other maintenance issues that free up funds to use in instructional areas. Yes, you can learn anywhere but ask a teacher whether they would rather teach in a room that is painted every year or every other year or in a room that goes ten years or longer without being painted. Ask children if they felt valued being taught in schools with few extracurricular activities and no labs, limited technology and other things when they show up to compete against a Madison Central, Oxford, Petal, or Oak Grove. Money does matter.

Anonymous said...

Could we get a trigger warning or something like that before another racist post full of facts I don't like.

PittPanther said...

If some schools spend more per student, but hire fewer teachers, then where is the money going?

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to see how some of the people on this thread would fare in life growing up black and in poverty stricken environment. Cue the “My parents didn’t have anything.” What is your point with these comparative findings, Mr. Kingfish? And what would you consider as your solution? I see that you fully support Charter schools. Would you suggest disbanding JPS and other majority black school districts and replace it with the charter school initiative? Where are the statistics for majority-black charter schools testing and funding vs majority-white public school districts? I’ll wait.

Anonymous said...

@PittPanther - administrators and administration costs. You would be hard pressed to find a more bloated, corrupt system than JPS. Look at the salaries of the middle management and you'll see where all that money is disappearing to.

@10:44 - I have heard so many stories like the one about your wife. My best friend growing up went into education and was almost annoying with his fervor toward "saving" students. Anyone who said these kids were a lost cause or something would set him off on a tirade.

He started teaching middle school in a small town in Alabama. After two years his attitude was, shall we say, conciliatory. He had kids who would just sit there, not doing anything. They were merely biding time to get out and get a menial job or, more commonly, collect government benefits. He lost all his vigor and pretty much gave up on a lot of his kids because the effectively TOLD HIM to give up on them. He lasted about two more years in public education. He's a crisis counselor now where he helps people who need and want his help.

New classrooms, more books, computers - those will not motivate a child who is hard set on becoming a ward of the state. My friend and your wife found that out the hard way. It is a sad truth, but it IS the truth.

Kingfish said...

The point is the Southern Poverty Law Center made certain claims in its lawsuit. Claims that are refuted by the Children's First Reports.

What is interesting is how you ignore the lower % of employees that are teachers in certain districts.

Anonymous said...

"It would be interesting to see how some of the people on this thread would fare in life growing up black and in poverty stricken environment."

Nobody here (and nobody I know of) is denying that this is a huge factor in education outcomes. The question is whether we should pretend that throwing even more money at failing districts that already have high spending will solve the problem. That's what the SPLC wants to do.

As for "what's the solution," crossing a failed idea off the list is part of the solution -- it means we stop wasting time on an idea that's 100% guaranteed not to work.

But if that's not enough, here's a really crazy, controversial idea: Maybe we don't put everybody in the same freaking place.

Maybe the hardworking little black girl with a single mom who stays up late every night checking her homework deserves a school where her teacher doesn't spend most class time dealing with the hooligans who yell profanity and threaten people. We do this for freaking prisoners --tax evaders don't end up with murderers-- but we can't do it for our kids?

Can you imagine what a high school that took the top 20% of all JPS students would be like? It would be pretty darn good. Even a school that took the next 40% would be passable. These kids would get a fighting chance.

But instead, we chain them to the bottom 40% --because they're all too poor to pay for private school-- and force the good kids to climb up a mountain dragging a bunch of jackasses behind them.

Education bureaucrats tell us we have to mix everybody together in one room --the conscientious and the juvenile delinquents-- and have the teachers "differentiate" their lessons, which basically means teach the same thing six different ways, with 70% of the time spent on the worst students, and the other 30% spent doing battle with disruptive conduct through "classroom management strategies." Because just sending bad kids to the office hurts their self-esteem, you see.

There is no shortage of solutions, because most current policy is batshit insane nonsense designed by clueless ideologues who couldn't get a private sector job to save their lives. You would have to work very, very hard to design a worse system.

Anonymous said...

Are @2:10 and @10:44 the same person? If so, can he or she be appointed Head of Dept. of Education? Perfectly said (especially @2:10).

PittPanther said...

2:10 makes the best comment ever on this board. Wow.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this, Kingfish.

I have taught in Mississippi public schools for a few years. All of the schools I have taught at are majority black. One is a high school that is 99.9 percent black or close to it, or at least it was while I was there. I had a very similar experience to that of 10:44's wife while there.

The people that are saying this conversation is racist are wrong. In fact, I have endured a lot of racist nonsense while teaching in Mississippi public schools. If the rolls were reversed and I had a hidden camera on me who knows what the results could have been. It's "sad" that there are communities in a first world county in the 21st century that are this "lost."

Anonymous said...

A lot had changed in 5 years, my friend.

Pull the federal, local, and state contributions and you'll see a different picture.

As the state and Feds have spent less, wealthy, white, districts have raised local taxes to cover. Poorer districts with less assessed valuation just can't raise as much.

That's a fact.

Anonymous said...

My house in Madison County would sell for 500K+ Tax is 1,400.
My house in Jackson would sell for 35K Tax is 1,975.

Hope somebody gets the memo about no tax base because that is a LIE. Jackson taxes the dog shit out of people.

Anonymous said...

If each student brings in 10,000 in Jackson.
Class of 30 is worth 300,000
Teacher with all benefits cost 75,000
Rent and utilities let put 25K
Now we have 200,000 left over or 2/3 of the money.
Where does this treasure go?

Where does the money go? There is a metric ton of money out there, where does it go, why do they keep whining about no money?

Every public school does this, they whine about no money.

High Priced Education Consultant said...

If the Clarion-Ledger really cared for Jackson and Jackson's future they would place a front page headline about public education then post, verbatim, 2:10's letter, giving full credit to a JJ reader contributor.

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