Blue Ribbon Website Up; Meetings in June; K-12 Funding Has Not “Recovered”

Governor Dennis Daugaard’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students has its website up. BlueRibbon.SD.Gov is nicely named for the next time the Governor needs to delay action on obvious problems with obvious solutions.

The Blue Ribbon website still doesn’t offer much: three goals, three useful resource links, a list of initial members (with no direct contact information), and a feedback page. The meeting schedule is incomplete, but that Sioux Falls paper offers these dates for the Blue Ribbon road show:

  • June 2: Chamberlain
  • June 3: Rapid City
  • June 16: Sioux Falls
  • June 17: Yankton
  • June 22: Watertown
  • June 23: Aberdeen

Patrick Anderson says the Governor’s office hasn’t announced exact sites for the meetings, but they will happen from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in each town.

Anderson’s article on the impending meetings contains two errors worthy of correction:

Under the current law, per-student dollars are supposed to increase by 3 percent or inflation each year, whichever is less, but lawmakers froze the rate in 2010 and slashed funding by 8.6 percent in 2011.

After years of gradual increases, the per-student amount finally recovered this year from those recession-era cuts [Patrick Anderson, “School Funding to Get Facelift?that Sioux Falls paper, 2015.04.22].

The per-student allocation has not “recovered” from “recession-era” cuts. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, measured by raw dollars, South Dakota experienced three consecutive quarters of GDP shrinkage in quarters 2, 3, and 4 of 2008, followed by GDP growth in Q1 2009, shrinkage in Q2 2009, followed entirely by quarters of growth, with the exception of one more GDP decrease in Q1 2012 of 0.01%. Over Fiscal Year 2012, the year in which K-12 education took the 8.6% hit, South Dakota’s GDP grew 4.77%. The 2011 cuts did not correspond with an economic recession.

“Recovered” misrepresents the situation. Recovery implies that the per-student allocation is back where it should be, or at least where it would be if the 2011 cuts hadn’t happened. This year’s 2% budget boost finally lifted the per-student allocation above its previous FY2010–FY2011 peak of $4,805, but as was Governor Daugaard’s intent in 2011, the per-student allocation remains locked in a new norm in which it lags five years behind where it would have been had we followed the legal funding formula.

The Blue Ribbon panel leaders insist they are open to a discussion of overhauling the K-12 funding formula.  Being open to simply throwing out the new norm and returning to the old norm that could add nearly a thousand dollars to the per-student allocation and perhaps the $100 million we need to give every teacher a $10K raise might be sufficient.


25 Responses to Blue Ribbon Website Up; Meetings in June; K-12 Funding Has Not “Recovered”

  1. larry kurtz

    One West River event? County seats in both Chamberlain and Kennebec?

    Stupid state.

  2. Paul Seamans

    My county of Jones will receive $94 more per student because of the 2% increase in funding. This increase to 2% from the mandated 1.5% amounts to a little over $23. To receive this additional $23 Jones County will give up $600 of state sparsity factor money per student. Heavily Republican Jones County thanks Governor Daugaard for the ream job.

  3. Jeff Barth

    Regarding “obvious problems with obvious solutions” Minnehaha County hired an architect some years to study our space needs. After months of study and thousands of dollars a bound report was produced. And the answer was… we needed more space.

  4. So, Paul, basically, Jones County will have less money to spend per student next year? Wow—that’s anything but the progressive our Mars ad promised. You’d better call the Governor and tell him to bring the Blue Ribbon panel to Murdo for a public hearing.

  5. Paul Seamans

    Cory, I think that the way this will work is that the loss of state aid will be shifted to the local property tax payer. Unfortunately I don’t think our local school board or county commissioners are aware of this. Technically the legislature/governor did increase state aid from the mandated 1.5% to 2% but the way that they achieved this makes it look like they are telling a lie.

  6. Paul Seamans, your school board and county commissioners must have been in a coma for the last twenty years if they don’t understand the shift. Because this scheme did not happen overnight. The South Dakota Republican legislatures and governors have had one overriding scheme when it comes to state aid for anything:

    “Fiscal responsibility, like s _ _ t, flows downhill.”

    Well, this will be a wake-up call for Jones county. If they are able and willing to awaken.

  7. On the BRT-F goals page the Governor writes: “We need to ask why 12 states can spend less per student than South Dakota, yet pay their teachers more.”

    That seems to be the full morph of a statistic that has been mis-used in this discussion. The Governor’s office had bee quite careful to say that SD ranks 39th in per student spending. That is not the same thing as saying that the STATE of SD is 39th in ITS spending for education (even per capita). That statistic combines all revenue for students, local, state and federal. The handy resources given on the BRT-F site breaks down SD’s spending in those three categories: local 52.7% (#13 in the nation); state 30,7% (#47 in the nation); federal 16.6% (#2 in the nation). Not all of those funds are necessarily made available for teacher salaries.

    I would just caution hearing the 39th ranking and letting the implication that the STATE of SD is spending on education at a rate above were the STATE really is: 47th. It does go toward an answer to who needs to kick in a bit more. Even at 47th, there is still a lingering question about the amount of even that level that flows to teacher salaries – just not on the scale the state has implied so far.

    It also goes to answer why an opt-out (increasing the local burden) seems unwarranted given the proportions of who is paying the lion’s share of the funding now.

    That being said, I can also say that the first hearing was positive. The committee members present, former teachers who now are legislators and Leaders of the DOE, were open and attentive to what teachers had to say. The focus was put on solutions. There certainly was no, “you are wrong – there is no problem” type retorts.

    I am optimistic. I say we all need to use this process to come to a solution that forces the legislature into action next session. Our message must be clear and succinct, and it must come out at each hearing. If we waste this opportunity by continuing to complain about the history of failure and get stuck repeating the past, then that is on us. We cannot allow ourselves to be the reason this all fails – the scapegoat in the end that prevented a solution.

  8. So, South Dakota schools get the 39th highest amount of money per student but they pay teachers only the 50th highest wages. It doesn’t matter to me what tax mechanism takes that money from my pocket because one way or another it all comes from the taxpayers pockets. I want to know why the disconnect between having the 39th biggest pot per student only nets out to the 50th biggest cup going to the good teachers.

    I bet you the answer is mostly around the fatcat administrators.

  9. I agree grud that the fatcat administrators are part of the problem. Something has to be done, maybe a new revenue stream, to try to get new teachers to stay in South Dakota and to pay all teachers a better salary.
    This has to be done now and not kick the can down the road. (as Daugaard likes to say).

  10. Donald Pay

    I did a small research project on this issue in 2001, Grudz. I didn’t really tease out administrative costs, but I looked at small districts versus Rapid City. Let’s consider one small district, Bridgewater, and compare it to Rapid City. [Warning: These 1998-1999 data.]

    At the time Bridgewater had 184 students in the district compared to Rapid City’s 13906. The state adjusts these figures to come up with “average daily membership”. Bridgewater ADM was 219, which I think included a 20 percent bump for the sparcity factor. Rapid Cities ADM was 13714. Thus expenditure per ADM was $5,869 for Bridgewater and $4,853 for Rapid City.

    Now, which district paid their teachers higher?

    Many might guess Bridgewater paid teachers more, because they had a higher per student expenditure. Actually the average Rapid City teacher in 1999 was paid 50 percent more than Bridgewater’s average teacher.

    Now you can bet that Bridgewater’s school board wouldn’t have had a secret seven figure superintendent to boost administrative costs enough for them to have a higher expenditure per student than Rapid City, who had the second or third highest paid superintendent at that time.

    So, what accounts for the higher cost per student? Transportation might explain some of the cost difference, but really you have to look at the classrooms.

    Here are some numbers. The average class size (students/teacher) at Bridgewater was 8.3 for high school, 11.9 for middle school, and 13.1 for elementary school. Compare that to Rapid City: 21.6 for high school, 16.5 for middle school, and 23.5 for elementary school.

    Rapid City’s teachers have about twice the student load on average. That efficiency allows Rapid City’s administrators the ability to shift more money to teacher salaries. Rapid City does have some flexibility that is just not available to Bridgewater.

    Some might say that Rapid City teachers should get more money because they are teaching more students (on average). Yeah, you can look at it that way. But I expect those Bridgewater teachers were putting in the same amount of time in class and at home, and providing much more individualized instruction than Rapid City teachers could with their higher student load. It probably paid off, because Bridgewater was at that time the district that scored highest on the standardized tests.

    The upshot is this: if you have a lot of schools with low student/teacher ratios, your expenditures per student are going to be high, and the district won’t have the flexibility to pay teachers higher salaries.

  11. Mr. Pay, that is the best information I have seen from you in years. Thank you.

  12. Donald, although I agree that there are efficiencies to look at in this whole discussion, I would caution on two things:

    One – student to teacher ratio is not the same as class size. When the student to teacher ratio is calculated, all staff (including librarians or learning coaches or special education intense intervention situations) is included. Some have few to no “classes” and therefore drive that ratio downward. I am not disagreeing that Bridgwater certainly has more teachers per student – I just caution saying those are “class sizes.”

    Two – some “inefficiency” is critical to meeting the needs of some of our high-need students. I currently have a young woman in my class who requires both a one-on-one paraprofessional to help her communicate (she does not have the use of her muscles to write or move around unassisted) and a nurse to monitor her well being. Now she is “inefficient” in that it takes three people (including me, the classroom teacher) to provide her education, yet the other students in class have only me. I hope we do not take the efficiency idea to the point where we decide that education high-need students like this very bright young woman is not “worth it” or “too inefficient.” The biggest thing that has changed in education since the ’70’s and 80’s is that we now hold on to so many more students to complete the courses to receive a diploma. Before more students would drop out or not be in school at all after 8th grade. Special education did not serve the number of students it does today. I find value in both those decisions to educate more students and bring them to a level of academic success they certainly need (and schools are by law required to provide), but they are “inefficient” if looking at only the bottom line.

    I hope we always weigh the value of opportunity of our students in any funding discussion.

  13. Donald Pay

    Given the above, let’s predict what Republicans will do, as opposed to the other members of the Blue Ribbon Task Force. They won’t look at any data that might hint that their well-heeled supporters are vastly under-taxed. They won’t, for instance, study relevant documents, even the ones they list on their website, but will start making up new statistics that no one else uses to blame districts, small and large, teachers and administrators. That’s the history of the Republican Party for 30 years on matters of education, so why would we expect anything else.

  14. Donald Pay


    I completely agree with you.

  15. Messrs. Pay and o, that is the sort of attitude that will sink this fancy new Blue Ribbon commission from the get go. And I really think that deep down that’s what libbies want. You don’t want to have a collaborative solution, you just want to blame people. Other people. Scary conservative people.

    I bet you a gravy laden breakfast that if this fancy commission follows your attitude that is exactly what we will all get, and it will be a damn shame. A damn shame.

  16. O, thanks for that careful reading of the Governor’s favorite statistic in this discussion, that 39th ranking in per-pupil spending. Indeed, that number avoids the issue of the state’s ongoing shift of costs to the locals since the 1995 funding formula reforms. Paul is seeing that shift in Jones County with the inclusion of the sparsity factor, technology, and statewide tests in the calculation of local effort (as wrought by Senate Bill 53).

  17. Cory, I wish I understood the federal funding component more. Federal sources like impact aid goes to some schools, but I don’t know if those funds are available for salary – even if they are, that would be a solution only for the districts that receive that federal impact aid category. Not all districts get an even distribution of federal dollars. This would be an excellent rabbit hole for someone to dive into to inform the discussion on funding going forward.

  18. The federal DOE says, “Most Impact Aid funds, except for the additional payments for children with disabilities and construction payments, are considered general aid to the recipient school districts; these districts may use the funds in whatever manner they choose in accordance with their local and State requirements.

  19. Libbies don’t want this panel to work? Wrong. “Libbies” and teachers have been fighting for decades for decent pay for teachers. The saving grace for this state has been the low cost to get a teaching degree. Students could pay back the loans in a relatively short period of time. Those days are long gone and the only way to pay those loans back is to teach in states that pay a lot better.

    So excuse us “libbies” if we’re skeptical. This Governor and Republicans and conservatives in general only want this panel as a show horse. Nothing will come of this because the answers are already out there. The problem has been studied to death.

  20. Owen, that is a defeatist attitude. You are better than that. Buck up. Shoulder to the grind stone. Help us all roll it up the hill.

  21. larry kurtz

    County seats in both Mound City and Selby? Who in hell made these rules anyway?

  22. Has anyone else tried to leave a message on the task force website? I have left 2 messages and received no response from either of them.

  23. State capitol in Pierre? What the heck! It should be in St. Paul

  24. Dr. Math, did the site at least spit up a confirmation that it had delivered your message?

  25. Yes, it did. I will wait until Tuesday and then I will contact Tony Venhuizen and ask him.