Public Schools Account for the Greatest Proportion of Local Government Debt
If there is ever a consensus on societal priorities, it is education. No one denies the positive consequences of a good education for individuals, families, and society. Yet looking at how local school districts are funded, concerned citizens and parents need to raise valid questions as to whether education is actually being promoted or harmed. Financing our school system using more debt neither protects nor promotes education; it only mortgages the future generation with more debt. The Comptroller’s office released “Your Money and Education Debt” this Thursday, exposing the sharp rise in debt service for public schools.
Debt service in 2010-2011 was $5.3 billion, accounting for almost one tenth of total school district expenditures. Debt service is also the fastest growing portion of public school spending, growing 126.5% between 2001 and 2011. Currently public education accounts for the largest proportion, about one third, of the local government debt in Texas, more than municipal debt. That is an average of $13,530 in debt for every student residing in an indebted district in the state. It is worth noting that the Comptroller identifies 170 districts as debt-free, which implies that debt-financing is not a necessity for school districts to remain operational.
With these numbers, Texans should feel empowered to ask this question, “is it worth it to use borrowed money to fund costly school projects?”