Rep. Lee Schoenbeck (R-5/Watertown) dropped by the Dakota Free Press comment section yesterday to ask some reasonable questions about teacher pay, opt-outs, and South Dakota voters’ tolerance for more taxes. Rep. Schoenbeck and regular commenter Donald Pay got into a disagreement over the share of K-12 funding borne by the state, with Pay claiming the state picks up a mere third of the cost of educating our kids and Schoenbeck saying no, the state has covered just over half since the 1995 formula overhaul.
I’ve published Census data that says that in 2012, South Dakota state government provided 30.5% of K-12 funding. The latest National Education Association stats show a state share of South Dakota’s K-12 funding at 30.0% [see Summary Table I, p. 94].
But historically, that one-third state share is relatively high. Check out this table from historian John Miller’s 2003 article on education in South Dakota:
Back when Lee and I were both mere glimmers (I don’t know about Donald), schools got barely a tenth of their funding from Pierre. Local property tax covered 85% of school funding. Throughout the postwar era, Pierre marched toward picking up more of the K-12 tab.
Don’t celebrate, though. Miller notes that South Dakota was still lagging behind other states:
Most other states increased their state aid for education much faster and more consistently than South Dakota, which by the 1970s and 1980s consistently ranked second or third to last in this category. Advocates of increasing state aid argued that doing so would raise funding to adequate levels, reduce inequities among districts that varied greatly in taxable real estate, and provide a less regressive source of revenues. Throughout the 1950s and most of the 1960s, state aid as a percentage of school revenue hovered between 9 and 12 percent. During this period, other states were raising their share of contributions, on average, to about 40 percent…. [L]ately [South Dakota’s state share] has begun to approach, bringing South Dakota into closer conformity with other states but still leaving it among the lowest-ranking states in percentage of state aid [John Miller, “Education in South Dakota Since World War II,” South Dakota History, vol. 33, no. 1, Spring 2003, p. 56.].
Only two states, Illinois and Missouri, kick in a smaller share of K-12 funding than South Dakota’s current estimated 30.0%. The current estimated national average for state share of K-12 funding is 46.3%.