School officials point to several reasons: The system handles responsibilities of both a local school district and a state agency. It has among the highest proportion of students in special education, where it spends one third of its local funds. To make up for years of neglect, it has increased spending on building maintenance and computer systems. And although enrollment has fallen 20 percent since 2000, the inflation-adjusted budget has grown by 9 percent in part because jobs are protected under union contracts.
In addition, numerous audits have pointed to widespread waste, including mismanaged federal grants, lack of competition in awarding contracts and overpaid consultants.