Kansas school debt set another record for the 2015-16 school year at $5.56 billion spread across 183 districts. Data provided by the Kansas Department of Education shows school districts loaded up on a lot of new debt since 2005:
- $5.2 billion in new debt was issued by 149 districts.
- Debt Service payments totaled $4.9 billion.
- Bonded indebtedness increased $2.4 billion or 77%.
- Debt Service payments jumped 98%, from $286 million in 2005 to $567 million in 2016.
- $659 million more could have been available for Instruction if debt held steady since 2005.
District listings for total and per-pupil indebtedness, new debt issued by year and total debt service payments since 2005 are available on KansasOpenGov.org. Refinanced and re-issued debt is not counted in the debt-issued totals.
Fifteen school districts issued more than $100 million in new bonded indebtedness since 2005. USD 233 Olathe tops the list at $516.8 million, with Wichita and Blue Valley rounding out the quarter-billion-dollar club. Much of the new debt is subsidized by citizens outside the issuing district, which has a direct impact on state aid available for educating students. Twelve of the top 15 debt issuers are subsidized by other Kansans. State aid for school debt ballooned from $52 million in 2005 to $163 million last year. To put that in perspective, had Bond & Interest aid remained steady over that period, $530 million more could have been available to fund Instruction.
The Division of Budget estimates that Bond & Interest aid will be $181 million in FY 2017, which means another $129 million could have been available for Instruction this had districts not taken on so much debt.
Kansas had the 10th-highest debt-per-pupil in the nation based on the most current (2014) Census data last year.