Several Iowa school districts have taken on debt the last 17 years, with one district owing as much as $35,448 per student, to handle student enrollment increases but also repairs to aging buildings. The question they face is: how to manage that debt?
Half of all states, including Kansas, pay less than 10 percent of school construction costs. Districts in those states are largely at the mercy of voters to finance new schools and major renovations. Low-wealth districts — particularly in rural areas — struggle to convince voters to do so.
Nationally, school district debt topped $443 billion in 2016. Districts that take on debt but can’t generate dollars through enrollment growth or taxes can struggle to climb out, and often have to take resources away from kids.
BySarah Butrymowicz and Nichole Dobo/The Hechinger Report |
School district administrators and school boards typically turn to outside advisers and underwriters when issuing bonds. But relying on outsiders puts districts in a vulnerable position, one in which they sometimes get bad deals with high interest rates and fees.
Ed tech bonds are part of an emerging shift in how schools are thinking about paying for technology. Yet it’s an approach that some observers say not only violates the principle of taxpayer-financed debt, but exacerbates inequities for schools in communities lacking the municipal wealth of their higher-income counterparts.
Colorado’s share-the-pain approach to pension reform is one that more states may turn to as they seek to prevent their pension funds from going bankrupt. Such changes could further depress teacher pay and crowd out money for school supplies and building repairs, but there are no simple alternative solutions in sight.
Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds says enough state money will exist to pay for projects she proposed last week during her annual Condition of the State address. IowaWatch interviewed her and responding Democrats for this podcast report.
Sometimes you have to take risks in order to accomplish something. We asked four Eastern Iowans who have taken risks to speak at a live storytelling event about turns they took in search of something better and share their stories in this podcast.
ByDee Friesen, Sarah Nicholson and Kimberly Diaz/KBVU The Tack, for IowaWatch |
Journalism students at Buena Vista University who ordinarily report on the university’s KBVU radio took their questions about why gun violence continues in schools, and how to stop it, to several Iowans.
Q: How much did you pay for all textbooks, hard copy and e-textbooks, this semester? We need actual costs, not guesses or vague statements, such as “a lot.”
Susan Letsch: This semester I’ve spent an estimated $250 on textbooks. Susan Letsch, 21
Buena Vista University
Spring 2018 junior
Hometown: Le Mars, Iowa
Major: Social Work and Criminal Justice
A: What was your most expensive book, and how much did it cost? Letsch: Most of the books I rented this year, but my most expensive book would probably be my brand new, um, art book. And that was more than $100 itself.