Poplarville leads in county spending per student

Published 10:03 am Friday, September 30, 2016

Two of the three school districts in Pearl River County spend more than the $8,263 state average per student, statistics show.

The Poplarville School District spent $9,062 per student in the 2011-12 school year, the most recent period for which data was available, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The Picayune School Dstrict spent $8,695 per student, and the Pearl River County School District $7,599 that year.

Poplarville was able to increase spending by including financial personnel in its strategic planning process, Superintendent Carl Merritt said.

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“We stay close to the news coming out of Jackson. We used our bond money wisely and put money back to weather the storm,” Merritt said. “It wasn’t magic; it was listening to our politicians and advisers and following their advice.”

Merritt also praised his counterparts in the county and their districts’ spending.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Poplarville had the highest average teacher salary and paid its superintendent more than his peers in the county and the statewide average.

Poplarville paid its 133 teachers an average of $45,375, according to the state superintendent’s annual report on the 2014-15 school year. Picayune’s 222 teachers were paid an average $42,503, and Pearl River County’s 177 teachers earned an average $42,351.

Merritt earned $127,801 in 2014-2015 and $129,700 in 2015-2016. Pearl River County Superintendent Alan Lumpkin earned $94,577 in 2014-15, which rose to $110,000 in 2015-2016. Picayune Superintendent Dean Shaw earned $101,401 in 2014-15 and $102,648 for 2015-2016.

Lumberton Public School District paid Superintendent Linda L. Smith $94,554 during both school years, and its 51 teachers earned an average of $40,708. The Lumberton district, which includes some land in Pearl River County, spent an average $16,509 per student per year in 2011-12.

Mississippi spent an average $8,263 per student in fiscal 2014, putting it in the bottom five states nationally, according to the Census Bureau.

Among state school districts, Lincoln County spent the least per student at $7,040 in 2012-13, and Clay County spent the most at $18,107, according to the education reform group Empower Mississippi, citing state data.

Nationally, Pocantico Hills Central School District in Tarrytown, N.Y., spent $91,278 per student in 2011-12, far more than any other district in the U.S., the National Center for Education Statistics found. The district had 287 students in the 2014-15 school year.