(KMOV) -- From teacher layoffs to cutting back programs, school districts are making massive budget cuts. So why are so many school districts spending so much on perks for superintendents and trips around the country? News Four begins its investigation into your public schools.
At the center of the funding crisis are children like four-year-old Samantha Hamby of Bethalto, Illinois. Weeks before the school year began, her parents learned the Bethalto School District eliminated 25 teaching positions and scaled back the program for children with special needs, like Hamby.
"She's missing out on the daily routine of knowing she's going to school and learn something today,” said LaWanda Hamby, Samantha’s mother.
Bethalto is not alone. Illinois’ budget woes forced most districts in the state to take an axe to their budgets. It’s estimated teacher layoffs could top 20,000 this year.
“With the economic climate that the country is facing, particularly the state of Illinois, these are some challenging times,” Edwardsville Superintendent Dr. Ed Hightower said.
But some of the same districts that are saving money are not holding back from spending. News Four spent the past several months studying school districts’ spending of taxpayer money. The investigation included an examination of variety of districts: large and small; urban and rural; districts with large budgets, and those that are financially challenged.
News Four followed the money and found wasteful spending. We looked at the contracts for the highest paid superintendents in the area and found perks experts call outrageous.
“You know, we have to ask ourselves, does this $250,000-a-year superintendent do more than a $200,000- a-year superintendent?" asked Audrey Spalding with the Show-Me Institute, a research and education think-tank.
As part of its investigation, News Four also took a look at more complicated issues, like consolidation, student performance, and school funding.
Wednesday night at ten, News Four will examine the devastating impact a failing school district can have on its community. On Thursday, News Four will post the contracts for nearly 60 local school district superintendents on kmov.com, so you can see some of the extraordinary perks awarded.