Public school districts across Illinois have collectively accumulated nearly $20 billion in long-term debt, according to reporting by the Chicago Tribune.
The $19.7 billion in debt amassed by the state's 857 public school districts breaks down to be $10,000 for each Illinois public school student in pre-K through 12th grade. At the national level, school district debt averages out to $8,459 per student.
Of that $19.7 billion debt total, $6.3 billion comes from the Chicago Public Schools.
Debt-limit exemptions approved by Illinois lawmakers have partly contributed to the debt accumulation among local public school districts, according to the newspaper.
Among other examples cited in the report, Ford Heights School District 169 has $21 million in debt. The school district's debt limit, however, is roughly $2.1 million. Another school district, Prairie-Hills Elementary School District 144, has a borrowing limit of $16 million, but hit $50 million in debt as of last summer.
In an interview with the newspaper, a school official from Prairie-Hills Elementary School District 144 in Markham claimed that "nothing happens" when a school district exceeds its debt limit.
The report also calls attention to state legislation from 2007. Tom Cross, the House Republican leader at the time, sponsored the measure, under which Oswego Community Unit School District 308 was able to issue $450 million in bonds. The district did not have to put that borrowing toward its debt limit, the newspaper reported.