The results released Monday show that school districts were spending 9 percent more on teachers and 14 percent more on administrators.
Missouri school administrator salaries are rising at a faster rate than teacher salaries and the disparity is particularly pronounced for charter schools, according to a new audit that adds fuel to Republican Gov. Eric Greiten's complaints about the state's education system.
Democratic State Auditor Nicole Galloway's office analyzed changes in per-pupil spending for both groups from 2012 to 2016.
The results released Monday show that school districts were spending 9 percent more on teachers and 14 percent more on administrators. At charter schools, per-student teacher spending declined 1 percent, while administration expenses grew 18 percent, the Springfield News-Leader reported.
Greitens has raised concerns about school administrators getting rich at the expense of underpaid teachers and is working to reshape the State Board of Education, which ousted the education commissioner last week.
Neither the board nor the commissioner makes salary decisions; those are made at the local level. The timing of the audit's release so soon after the firing is coincidental, said Steph Deidrick, a spokeswoman for Galloway.
According to Galloway's audit, not only is school administration spending outpacing teacher spending, but "many schools with higher administration and lower instruction expenditures" also reported worse marks in annual performance reports.
"Charter schools, as a whole, spent a significantly lower percentage of current expenditures on instruction than school districts," Galloway's report said, noting that charters also fared worse on average on state assessment reports. "However, charter schools typically have a different organizational structure than school districts and operate historically in disadvantaged areas."
Galloway recommended that the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education study how spending decisions impact school performance and make the information available to schools to use in budgeting decisions.
The education department replied that "a study attributing causation, or even correlation, between school spending and student achievement would not be appropriate, nor result in valid conclusions."
The report also found that the DESE doesn't have "adequate procedures in place to ensure administrator salaries are reported for all schools or to verify salaries are reported accurately." DESE has since started following up with schools that do not submit salary information, the report says.
Auditors also noted that payments for things such as gym memberships and vehicle allowances were greater than 50 percent of the salaries for some superintendents and executive directors.
However, they weren't reported to the DESE as compensation received. As a result, the DESE said it will change its data collection protocol to include all compensation, while noting there are limits in what information it can collect from charters.