Published Online:

Census Finds Jump in District Borrowing for School Construction

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

School spending in 1991 rose more than twice as much as consumer prices, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report, which found that many districts stepped up their borrowing for school construction to take advantage of falling interest rates.

During 1991, public schools borrowed $12.8 billion for construction and renovation, a 13 percent jump over 1990. The findings, reported in "Public Education Finances: 1991,'' show the continuation of a five-year trend of rising school indebtedness.

Schools in Arizona, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas led the rush to the bond market, with over $500 million of debt issued in each state for construction, renovation, and refinancing projects.

Public school debt rose from about $40 billion in 1987 to $63.7 billion in 1991.

In addition to lower interest rates, experts say, the growing population of young children and the deterioration of school buildings have fueled the facilities-spending boom. (See Education Week, March 20, 1991.)

The 1991 growth in spending on facilities outpaced overall school spending, which still increased at a much faster clip than the overall economy.

Federal, state, and local agencies spent more than $330 billion for all levels of public education in 1991, an 8 percent increase over 1990. Consumer prices crept up about 3.2 percent over the same period.

Cost Factors

Factors cited as responsible for the rising school spending include:

  • Teacher salaries. Salaries in elementary and secondary education rose by 8.7 percent, to a total of $91.3 billion, in 1991. Instructional costs jumped 4.5 percent, to $30.7 billion.
  • Support costs, including administration, maintenance, and transportation. These costs rose in elementary and secondary schools by 7 percent, to a total of $69.3 billion.
  • Increased spending at public colleges and universities, which rose about 8 percent in 1991 over the previous year, to $71 billion.

The report found that New Jersey logged the highest per-pupil costs of any state, at an average of $7,949. The District of Columbia followed with a $7,856 average. New York, Alaska, and Connecticut rounded out the top five, with each state spending more than $7,000 per student.

Utah spent the least per pupil, at $2,765. The average per-pupil spending nationwide was $4,938.

State and local governments supplied an equal share of overall school funding in 1991--47 percent each--with the federal government picking up 6 percent of the tab.

The report is available for $7 from the Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15250-7954; (202)783-3238. Refer to stock number 003-024-08723-5.

Web Only

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories