ATLANTA, Ga. (AP) -- State records show Atlanta Public Schools spends more on administrator salaries than most other districts in the region, despite dropping enrollment, a low graduation rate and low test scores.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Saturday that Atlanta Public Schools spent about $831 per student in 2012 on administrator salaries — which doesn't include principals and assistant principals. The figure is more than double the average of what nine other metro Atlanta districts spent on administrative salaries, the newspaper reported.
Interim superintendent Errol Davis told the newspaper large urban school systems are more expensive to run than suburban districts. The district must also invest in its administration as it bounces back from an indictment that charged 35 educators in a standardized test cheating conspiracy, he said.
"My view is that you need to get the basic infrastructure in place before you start worrying about costs," Davis said. "If you want systemic excellence, you have to build systems, and that costs money."
At approximately 49,000 students, Atlanta Public Schools' enrollment is less than half of what it was 50 years ago. The newspaper reported that if the district were to reduce its administrative spending to the national average, it would have enough money to hire about 300 additional teachers with salaries and benefits of $80,000 each.
About $171 per student in Atlanta Public Schools funding is spent on assistant superintendents and department heads, compared with $71 per student in other metro Atlanta districts. Clerks and secretaries in the Atlanta Public Schools system are paid about $138 per student, compared with an average of $62 in other metro Atlanta districts.
"If I were a taxpayer in that district, I'd be looking pretty closely at what they spend," Georgia Department of Education Chief Financial Officer Scott Austensen told the newspaper. "Without making a value judgment, it does look particularly high."
Many would argue the spending hasn't translated to academic achievement. The Atlanta Public Schools graduation rate was about 51 percent in 2012, below the state average of 70 percent.
Atlanta Board of Education Chairman Reuben McDaniel told the newspaper Atlanta Public Schools spends more because it has more properties to manage, has more students that qualify for free and reduced meal programs and provides service for disabled students.
Jarod Apperson, an Atlanta accountant, researched administrative salaries in metro Atlanta districts and told the newspaper Atlanta Public Schools runs nearly 100 properties while districts of a similar size operate about 50.
Atlanta Public Schools didn't adjust the size of its administration to match the size of its student population, Apperson said.
The newspaper also reported that Atlanta employs an average of 16.7 administrators per 1,000 students. Clayton and Fayette counties have the next highest ratio of 8.6 administrators per 1,000 students, according to the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts.