Mike Norman unfairly stated that opposition would arise to the Arlington school district’s bond proposal due to a “simplistic assertion” that all debt is bad debt. Texans care about this issue because our state maintains more local debt per capita than every state in America, except New York.
Local debt is a bipartisan issue. “Examining local debt and bond elections is an important step,” said state Sen. Chuy Hinojosa (D-McAllen) in the online Rio Grande Guardian. Hinojosa proposed increasing transparency and accountability, and outlawing capital appreciation bonds (CABs) where principal and interest payments are delayed 25-40 years.
While Norman’s column took a superficial approach to analyzing Arlington’s debt, it was still good to see the issue discussed. Is the scope and financing of the project appropriate, and how do the costs compare to similar projects on a cost-per-square-foot and per-student basis?
We all want the best education for our children. Making sure our schools are in sound financial condition improves their ability to deliver on that promise. But reflexively endorsing local debt proposals without weighing the rationale for the spending is a simplistic way to address education that does more harm than good.
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— James Jones, Director, Accountability First, Austin