Where Are Your Tax Dollars Going?


August 5, 2015 1:26PM

With students across Tennessee heading back to school this week, school expenses are fresh in everyone’s mind. It’s the season for those last-minute runs to Office Depot—braving the crowds on tax-free weekend, clutching three different supply lists, losing yourself in the dizzying array of binder widths, and contemplating selling a kidney to afford that graphing calculator your child needs.

But it’s worth it, right? These expenditures are part of an investment in our children’s education—an investment that should be a top priority for the government as well. But as you check items off your school supply lists, you should also make sure that your dollars are being spent as wisely by school districts as they are by you. We know how critical it is to instill knowledge and cultivate wisdom in the minds and hearts of the future leaders of our nation, and we expect and trust that our hard-earned tax dollars are being put to work to accomplish that specific purpose.

Unfortunately, Tennessee’s record for school spending leaves much to be desired. Of the $9.3 billion spent statewide on K-12 education last year, only 54% was spent in the classroom. That’s right: almost half that money funds non-instructional spending. Much of the money we expect to be spent educating students actually goes to fund non-teaching and administrative personnel. Despite the fact that the number of students in Tennessee classrooms has only increased by 6% in the past decade, the number of school administrators across the state has grown by an average of 20%, and overall administrative spending has increased by an outlandish 65%.

At the Beacon Center, we want to make sure you know exactly how much of your money is spent to actually educate your children. To that end, we’ve updated our website,, with new data that breaks down Tennessee’s educational spending by district. To see how your school district invests your money, click here. With this accessible tool, you can stay informed in order to hold the state and your school district accountable for your children’s education.