Education Spending Goes Awry

The Easton Area School Board approved a reimbursement plan on Thursday that will be sent to the state Department of Education detailing more than $93 million spent to build the district’s middle school complex in Forks Township. However, officials did not comment on the construction costs nor did school directors discuss the submitted plan before approving it during Thursday’s meeting.

This is only the latest in a disturbing trend. On October 24, 2008 the Nazareth Area Board of Education signed off on floating a bond for up to $31 million as the final borrowing package to pay for the ongoing middle school project and to refinance existing debt.

In Edifice Complex, we found that construction was the fastest growing category of school spending. From 1996 to 2006 public school spending on construction and debt increased a whopping 103 percent, while administration and support services grew by 62 percent. Instructional expenditure, meanwhile, grew by 51 percent. As a result, construction spending grew from 8.7 percent to 11.3 percent of total expenditures while the proportion of instruction spending declined. In other words, given additional resources, many school boards and superintendents seem inclined to support football fields and Taj Mahal buildings rather than teachers and books.

Instead of addressing their problems with their spending habits, however, school boards are demanding more funding from state taxpayers; even a 12% increase is not good enough. And it does not seem like the funding is likely to stem any time soon.