Americans consistently underestimate how much we spend on our education system. In a 2016 poll, the average respondent guessed that we spend about $4,000 per student annually, about a third of the real average per-pupil expenditure. America is among the highest education spenders in the developed world, and many countries spend less for higher academic performance.

While the calls to increase education spending sound persuasive when teachers go without raises and purchase supplies for classrooms out of their personal incomes, the reality is that we need to take a hard look at how we spend the more than $600 billion we pour into the K-12 system every year.

One possible culprit is administrative bloat. Non-teaching staff – otherwise known as bureaucrats – have increased over sevenfold in the past 70 years, while student enrollment has only increased by eight percent. Those salaries and benefits add up to a huge financial drag on the system. In fact, if administrative hiring had kept pace with student population just since the early 1990s, many states could easily pay for the raises teachers’ unions are striking for in states like West Virginia and Oklahoma.

For example, in West Virginia, if districts had prioritized teachers over bureaucrats for the last couple decades, every teacher could get a raise of $11,000, an increase of almost 25 percent for the average high school teacher. And in some states, the bias towards administrators has been even more lopsided. In New Jersey, if districts had invested in teachers instead of additional administrators, every teacher would be looking at an extra $17,000 per year.

Americans realize the importance of educating the next generation of citizens, and they’re willing to take out their checkbooks to pay for it. But the current education system does not spend their hard-earned money wisely. Instead of coming to taxpayers with their hands out again, districts should take a hard look at their spending priorities, and direct more money where most voters think it belongs: with students, teachers, and classrooms.