We analyse the politics of the reform of teacher payment modalities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in light of the uneven territorial reach of the DRC state. The reform focused on extending this reach by paying all teachers via a bank account, replacing long-standing shared governance arrangements between state and faith-based organisations with a public-private partnership. By using qualitative and quantitative data, we map the political practices accompanying the implementation of the reform. While the reform itself was officially deemed a success, its intended effects were almost completely offset in rural areas. Moreover, governance of teacher payments was not rationalised but instead became even more complex and spatially differentiated. In sum, the reform has rendered governance processes more opaque and deepened the existing unevenness in the geography of statehood.