Home for over thirty-seven-thousand students, Leander Independent School District (LISD) is located north of Austin and serves 200 square miles of Central Texas. LISD boasts 42 schools, including a recently opened 100-million-dollar high school and is $2.8 billion in debt. As Texas continues to grow and become an economic and cultural center, school leaders need to give their youth a better future.
Central Texas has been a host to major population growth; from 2010 to 2016, Austin grew by 37.7% in population, introducing jobs and families to previously small towns. From 1999 to 2014, the Leander’s student population, once only large enough for a small schoolhouse, grew by 177%. Calculations suggest that by the year 2024, the student population will grow to almost 50,000 students, who will require at least eight more costly campuses.
To accommodate its growing number of students, LISD, along with other Texan school districts, uses capital appreciation bonds (CABs). These types of bonds are banned in Michigan for their risk and severely limited in other areas. While CABs postpone payment of the bond until it matures, it costs the community $9 for every $1 borrowed. In a 2015 bid to restrict CABs, legislators passed House Bill 114, disallowing a district with more than 25% of its debt in CABs to issue more. At the time of the bill’s passage, LISD’s CAB debt was over 70%.
Other Texas school districts have managed their debt and growth. Leander ISD’s projected debt is higher than every other district in the state, except in Houston and Dallas-whose schools serve a far higher population. LISD owes $34,474 per student, double the average for school districts with debt. This debt, once it matures, will be costly to the next generation of Texans- the children in school now.
As a student, the growing pains are felt on campus. Some classes are outsourced to “portables,” or temporary structures adapted to be classrooms. These classrooms are located outside of the main buildings and have a lifetime of about ten years if maintained properly. These portables can be found on campuses across LISD. Despite these temporary measures, facilities are still overloaded. Students experience large crowds at lunch and full classes.
If an organization that teaches finance to students cannot handle its own, something is wrong.
Leander is another case of debt mismanagement within Texan school districts. Texas has one of the highest school debt per capita in the country and districts with similar financial issues can be found across the state of Texas.
Cypress-Fairbanks ISD is over three billion dollars in debt and Melissa ISD (which has grown from 623 students to 2,000 in the past decade) will soon owe $102,672 per student. These debts will be passed down to the current student population to handle.