The Indianapolis Star editorial page, which hasn't been as reliably conservative in recent years, finds religion in a piece headlined "Lavish school buildings throw taxpayers for a loss":
Washington Township homeowners, angered by double-digit increases in tax bills, are fuming about the school district's decision to proceed with the renovation of North Central High School's natatorium, which will now cost $1 million more than its initial budget. In Boone County, plans by the Zionsville school district to build a $20 million athletic complex, originally part of an effort to build a second high school, are now on hold, according to Superintendent Scott Robison. But taxpayers are still on the hook for the $113 million bond issue floated by the district two years ago to fund this and other projects.
Certainly, athletics can help keep kids out of trouble and connected to school. They can also bring pride and prestige to a community. But the costs of such projects are too much of a burden for homeowners already struggling to pay their taxes.
It is also about priorities. The fact that 20 percent of school property taxes are devoted to paying down debt means less money to shore up underfunded teacher pensions. The need to improve academic performance ought to make construction a lower priority. The spending spree also exacerbates the inequities between wealthier and poor school districts, ultimately hurting at-risk students whose schools don't have such amenities.
But stadiums and swimming pools aren't the only elements of school spending in need of scrutiny.
The editorial also points out that Indiana's dueling petition process makes it difficult to keep spending in check.