Illinois: Talk about a hidden debt bomb!

In the past, I’ve written about the debt incurred by State governments, with particular reference to Illinois.  Now comes news that the “visible” debt in that State may be matched by a similar amount held by school boards – but not listed with other State debts.

Illinoisans hear plenty about the state’s ballooning pension debt, its billions in unpaid bills and rising bond debts. In fact, many even know about the local pension crises playing out in cities like Harvey and North Chicago.

But most don’t know that the state’s 860 school districts have put Illinoisans on the hook for another $21 billion in debt. In 2002, it was just $12.3 billion. That growing burden is just another reason Illinoisans pay the nation’s highest property taxes.

. . .

That increase could be explained if Illinois was a fast growing state with many new students and a need for more infrastructure. But the opposite is true. Illinois’ student population is flat when compared to 2002.

There’s more at the link.

We calculated last year that, at Illinois’ then-current total state debt, every resident of that state – every man, woman and child – was on the hook for $16,447 as their share of that debt.  According to the article cited above, school board debt in Illinois amounts to an additional $10,388 per student.  Since most students don’t have any money of their own, that amount should, in reality, be added to their parents’ share of the state debt load.

I’m glad I don’t live in Illinois . . . and I’m sure it’s not the only state with that sort of hidden debt burden.  Readers might want to investigate their own states, to see what their situation might be.



  1. Don't worry, the Obama Library will solved all of these debt issues. How, don't ask me, Obama will show the way.

  2. No problem. All they have to do is move to a lower-tax state, then vote in the same policies and screw up that one, too.

  3. The IRS has penalties for individuals who attempt and fail to hide revenue. Imagine what those penalties are for public servants who do the same with state funds! I'm sure some people are going to get some hard time for this cover-up. 😐

  4. K-12, 12,700/student, 380,000/classroom of 30 students.
    They might pay the teacher 70,000.
    Where did all the other money go?

  5. From time to time, media does highlight egregious examples of teacher pensions gone wrong. It's generally school district superintendents who goose their salaries a couple years before retirement to raise their pensions. And the supers get paid absurd salaries to begin with. No oversight whatsoever on that stuff. We are so screwed

  6. @Latemarch: administration, physical plant, and supplies.

    National stats show that ~60% of K-12 spending goes on salaries, and an additional ~20% goes on "benefits". Which is a sneaky way of obscuring that ~80% of education spending goes on people.

    But let's use the 60% for salaries:

    Using the $380K per classroom figure, 60% is $228K. The teacher might get $70K.

    Which means that $158K – more than 2/3 the total salary figure – goes to other people. In other words, administrators and janitors get the rest. And I sincerely doubt that a janitor makes as much a teacher, or that they have one janitor per classroom, so the lion's share – probably >$120K per classroom – goes to administration.

    I'd argue that in a sane, not overly-regulated, world the administration overhead would be less than a third of the per-classroom teacher's salary, not double it.

    Also notice that they're paying nearly $80K – per classroom – on "benefits".

  7. Since public employees were permitted to unionize, it's been bombs away on taxpayers. Also, since the late 1970's teacher's unions ran slates of candidates for school boards with lots of union money behind them. The Leftie press endorsed them & now they rubber stamp salaries demands. Their candidates are related to teachers, firefighters, police in other districts. It's just one big happy family now.

  8. It isn't unions or teacher pay. Starting pay is in the mid 30K range, and a teacher with a masters and 30 years on the job gets about $55K. The only ones making more are administrators. A high school principal makes about $100K (but being administration, they are not union).

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