Texas school districts are absolutely awash in debt.
According to the latest Bond Review Board data, total school district debt, including principal and interest, grew to more than $112.2 billion in fiscal year 2014—more than any other type of local government. Compared to the whole, school district debt accounts for about one-third of the total.
Source: Texas Bond Review Board
Despite all this red ink, some in the legislature are seeking to allow some school districts to get even further into debt.
Later today, the Texas House is expected to take up for debate House Bill 506, a bill to allow some school districts “to exceed the cap on debt service for school construction by 20 percent,” if the district meets certain criteria.
This is a bad policy prescription that allows bad practices and bad spending habits to persist.
Rather than allow some school districts to simply increase the limit on their taxpayer credit cards, legislators ought to be encouraging ISDs to employ techniques like zero-based budgeting; discouraging districts from using debt to pay for day-to-day expenses; re-examine “eye-popping” ISD salaries; and helping district to cut spending and shift priorities.
Clearly, more debt is not the only way that districts can come up with the funding they need to pay for priority projects.