Schools in New Jersey achieve an average of 39% reading proficiency on one of the most popular education tests, the National Assessment of Education Progress. Pop quiz: how much should a school spend, per classroom, to achieve such low standards? If you said less than $300,000-$400,000, then go to the back of the class and watch The Cartel, because that's how much is poured into New Jersey’s poorest school districts. Most of the people interviewed in the film predicted that schools spent under $100,000 per classroom.
Where does all of this money go? The first expense to come to mind is usually the teacher’s salary. Other costs include pensions, benefits and administration. Many of these expenses can be contained. They can also spiral out of control. In Maryland, for example, there are 24 school districts. In New Jersey, there are 616. That’s a lot of extra administrative positions, and would add up even without 400 administrators in Newark who are paid six figure salaries to do paperwork. And these are only the above board expenditures.
The expenses go beyond budget gimmicks. There have been cases of faked financial reports, teachers pocketing field trip money and selling prescriptions out of the nurse's office. One school went as far as hiring an athletic director with mob ties.