Three Birmingham schools have been revealed as among the most debt-ridden in the country.
The schools - two secondaries and one primary - owe a total of nearly £3 million between them.
A fourth Midland school - Fir Tree Primary School in Sandwell - also has a debt of £484,000.
Under powers introduced two years ago, council chiefs can re-direct funds from schools sitting on cash stockpiles to help pay off the debts if they feel it necessary.
The school most deeply in the red in Birmingham is the International School and Community College in Tile Cross which is battling against a £1.7 million financial deficit.
The Heartlands High School is £863,000 in debt and Matthew Boulton Community Primary School in Handsworth is trying to haul itself out of a £337,000 deficit.
Birmingham City Council said there were valid reasons for the the schools' financial problems.
"International School's primary focus since its conception has been to secure the improvement in educational outcomes for its pupils," said a spokesman.
"This has been done but it had to incur substantial costs, primarily additional staffing, to secure the improvements, which has led to this deficit.
"The LEA is working with the school to address the issue of the deficit over a five-year time frame."
The authority said it was similarly "aware of the need to produce a robust repayment plan" at Heartlands High.
The three schools are among 1,866 nationally that owe more than £120 million between them. The news has sparked concerns of staff cuts and lessons being shortened.
The International School last night refused to comment on its debt crisis.
But Glynis Jones, head teacher of Heartlands High, said its difficulties dated back to the school being put into special measures before she arrived.
"When a school goes into a downward spiral, money can be thrown at it to try and get a quick fix," she said.
"But a quick fix doesn't always work.
"We have tightened up on financial procedures within the school and that has had a huge impact."