The South Dakota Dashboard reminds legislators that Pierre really is responsible for South Dakota’s lowest-in-the-nation teacher salaries.
South Dakota also trails every adjoining state in the percentage of the state’s total income spent on K-12 education:
If dollars measure the value we place on various public functions, our overall spending on K-12 education, including teacher salaries, show that South Dakotans value public education less than all of their neighbors do. Out of a $1,000 paycheck, we South Dakotans won’t even give $30 to our public schools. Minnesotans would give over $36; Nebraskans, almost $40; Wyomingians, $47.
When looking at revenue rather than spending, South Dakota is last nationally for the proportion of revenue coming from the state as related to personal income. For every $1,000 in personal income, the state of South Dakota sent $10.49 to schools compared to first place Vermont, which sent $50.23. The national average was $19.29 [“Education Data: South Dakota Last in Region for K-12 Spending in Relation to Personal Income,” South Dakota Dashboard, 2015.08.05].
We try to make up for the Legislature’s miserliness with higher-than-average local and federal funding, but that’s not enough to lift ourselves off the floor.
And for those of you who keep shouting, “You don’t make education better just by throwing money at it,” please, knock it off. Less money means fewer opportunities for kids. Ask Spearfish superintendent Dave Peters:
“The more resources you have, the more you can offer kids,” Peters said. “When I first started in this district, we cut $2 million out of the budget. In a school district this size, when you cut a staff member, you cut a program … and the vast majority of that still hasn’t been added back today.”
…Programs that were eliminated or reduced at the elementary level include: the gifted and talented program, the swimming program, the parallel block scheduling, and planning time and staff development.
…Middle school programs that have been eliminated or reduced include: foreign language, home economics, conflict resolution/peer mediation, industrial technology, alternative education, creative expressions (drama, art, writing), library, band lessons, staff development, and all sixth-grade extracurricular activities.
…[N]early 30 high school courses have been eliminated, including: advanced speech, American cultural studies, auto mechanics I, auto mechanics II, auto mechanics III, child development, clothing and textiles, creative writing II, drama II, electronics, family living, foods I, housing, independent living, industrial technology, jazz band, life skills, multi media art history, marriage and family, mixed mediums, music theory, mythology, nutrition and foods, power mechanics, survival cooking, swing choir, and journalism.
Nearly a dozen high school activities have been eliminated, and several others have been impacted by cuts in salaries, supplies, meals, travel, dues/fees, and professional services [Jaci Conrad Pearson, “SD Last in Region for K-12 Spending vs. Income,” Black Hills Pioneer, 2015.08.14].
How do we meaningfully fund K-12 education, the Governor’s Blue Ribbon K-12 panel asks? Once again, the answer is obvious, and the answer is in Pierre: South Dakota Legislature, stop blaming local districts and stop cheating schools of dollars and kids of opportunities. Find the political will that our local districts and every state around us are able to find and fund K-12 education as if it matters.