• Tag Archives 2016 SB 131
  • Correction: Legislature Strikes Dedication of Half-Cent Sales Tax to Education and Property Tax Relief

    Well, I screwed that story up. Yesterday I reported, based on a hasty reading of Senate Bill 35 that the conference committee had stripped the language the House inserted that removed the 2016 Schoenbeck Amendment, which dedicates 63% of the half-penny sales tax implemented last June 1 to K-12 teacher pay, 3% to vo-tech instructor pay, and 34% to property tax relief.

    I was mistaken. SB 35 Section 3 strikes the Schoenbeck Amendment:

    Section 3. That § 13-1-65 be repealed.
    13-1-65. From the proceeds of SL 2016, ch 65, each year sixty-three percent shall be dedicated to increasing teacher salaries by school districts, thirty-four percent shall be dedicated to reducing the property tax levies for general education for all classes of property, and three percent shall be dedicated to increasing instructor salaries to competitive levels at postsecondary technical institutes.

    I did read SB 35 correctly on the restoration of the 0.3% inflationary increase approved for state aid to general K-12 education, as confirmed by SDPB and Bob Mercer. SDEA says the 0.3% increase will raise the target teacher salary, which is the basis of state aid calculations, from $48,500 to $48,645. However, looking strictly at the budget lines, the final budget bill appropriates $449,193,174 for state aid to general education, a 0.18% increase from last year’s $448,405,255 appropriation.

    But the removal of the statutory dedication of the half-penny sales tax to education and property tax relief still strikes me as problematic. Senator Billie Sutton (D-21/Burke) insists I shouldn’t:

    “If we don’t strike Section 3, then we have a real problem. We would have to cut education by $5 million for FY17 and FY18,” Sutton says. “So it’s very important that the public knows and understands that this isn’t an attempt to take money away from education. This is actually an attempt to make sure that education does not have a cut” [Kealey Bultena, “Education Receives 0.3 Percent Increase,” SDPB Radio, 2017.03.10].

    SDEA President Mary McCorkle concurs with Senator Sutton:

    Lawmakers also had to deal with some conflicting statutes with regard to the half penny sales tax and the state formula. Last year’s legislation which allocated the half cent sales tax also contained language to ‘earmark’ 63 percent of the new revenue for the formula. However, with sales tax revenues coming in lower than expected, lawmakers may have had to cut K-12 funding by about $5 million. The funding formula, on the other hand, requires that schools receive an inflationary increase of .30 percent.  In order to reconcile the differences, lawmakers opted to remove the earmark legislation from the statute giving public schools a better deal.

    “There is some confusion about why lawmakers removed the percentage increase in SB 35; many were concerned that teachers would lose what they received last year.  SDEA assures you that the money you received last year is still there with a little more to work with,” said McCorkle.  “We have to keep the focus on the formula. It’s the target salary and the annual inflation factor that will drive education funding in the future. Despite the revenue challenges, lawmakers were able to keep their commitment to schools by giving schools the inflationary increase and therefore increased the target for the state’s average teacher salary.  This is good news for our schools, teachers, and, certainly good for South Dakota’s students.”

    [South Dakota Education Association, “Schools to Receive Modest Funding Increase,” Lobby Line, 2017.03.10].

    What matters most here is that the Legislature upheld its commitment to raise K-12 funding by the index factor instead of balancing the budget by zeroing out the promised K-12 funding increase.

    But at peril of screwing up again, I contend that Senator Sutton, McCorkle, and others defending Section 3 of SB 35 are misreading the law. Read the text they are striking again:

    From the proceeds of SL 2016, ch 65, each year sixty-three percent shall be dedicated to increasing teacher salaries by school districts, thirty-four percent shall be dedicated to reducing the property tax levies for general education for all classes of property, and three percent shall be dedicated to increasing instructor salaries to competitive levels at postsecondary technical institutes [SDCL 13-1-65, enacted 2016.06.01; to be repealed by SB 35 2017.07.01].

    That law earmarks the ninth half-penny of our sales tax (the 0.5 in the 4.5) to K-12 teacher pay, vo-tech teacher pay, and property tax relief. But it does not say that if sales tax falls short, that’s all the money that those three budget lines get. If 63% of the half-penny sales tax is, as Sutton says, $5 million short of what the formula dictates, SDCL 13-1-65 does not restrict the Legislature from filling the gap with other funds, and the funding formula in SDCL 13-13-10.1 requires them to fill that gap.

    The Schoenbeck Amendment didn’t put teacher pay at risk; it only wrote in law on dedicated funding source for teacher pay.

    The Schoenbeck Amendment did guarantee that little 3% slice of the sales tax pie for vo-tech instructor pay. Even as they agreed to get rid of the statute with Section 3, the conference committee felt the need to add Section 6 to protect the vo-tech money:

    Section 6. That § 13-39-75 be amended to read:
    13-39-75. The presidents of the postsecondary technical institutes, acting pursuant to rules established by the State Board of Education, shall use the money provided pursuant to § 13-1-65 SL 2016, chapter 65 to increase instructor salaries to competitive levels at each postsecondary technical institute. The amount of money provided each year shall be increased by the index factor as defined in § 13-13-10.1. [SB 35, Section 6, as added by conference committee, 2017.03.10]

    So if the funding formula (target teacher salary plus index factor) protect K-12 funding, and if SB 35 Section 6 protects the vo-tech salary boost, what does SB 35 Section 3 really change?

    What about that property tax relief? That was the part of the 2016 deal that kept the Retailers Association from torpedoing the teacher play plan: basically, for every $63 we aimed at teachers, we handed businesses $34 back on their property taxes. We shifted $40 million from property tax payers to sales tax payers. The only part of the 2016 deal that guaranteed that shift would happen was the Schoenbeck Amendment. SB Section 3’s repeal of the Schoenbeck Amendment means that property tax relief may have been a one-time boon… and it may have allowed the Legislature to pass its budget woes off to the local school districts that will levy their property taxes.

    But few if any legislators appear worried about that possibility. The House approved the conference committee report 63–4. The Senate concurred 34-1.

  • Rapid City Focuses on Raising New Teacher Pay, Per Pierre’s Orders, Against Research on Experienced Educators

    The Rapid City school board and its teachers can’t agree on how to distribute the new $5.2 million appropriated by the state to raise teacher pay to regionally competitive levels. The fundamental conflict lies in the board’s plan to focus the money on new teachers and take away automatic raises for experience and continuing education for veteran teachers.

    Based on my calculations, Rapid City is getting enough new money from the state to give each of its 900-some teachers raises of $3,800 to $5,700, depending on how much of the new money they allocate to benefits and overhead, per the new funding formula. According to Superintendent Tim Mitchell’s press release following the union’s rejection of the plan, the board is replacing its salary schedule with the following four main planks:

    1. Raise starting pay $8,000—from $32K to $40K.
    2. Step new teachers up to $50K in five years.
    3. Raise salaries for veteran teachers making over $50K by $3,000 this year.
    4. Make future raises for teachers at or above $50K contingent on negotiations and new money from the Legislature.

    Dr. Mitchell offers numbers showing that, under the board’s proposal, a fifth-year teacher could see a jump of $15,000:

    To be clear, we value all of our teachers, but here are the facts: our first-year teachers start at $32,000 per year. After working in our district for five years, they make $34,922. That is not anywhere near the $48,500 average that our taxpayers and legislators expect us to reach. Again, in an effort to follow the intent of the law, we proposed that a much larger portion of the new money go to teachers making under $50,000 [Supt. Tim Mitchell, press release, Rapid City Area Schools, 2016.06.01].

    What’s that about “the intent of the law”? Ah, yes, the Steinhauer amendment. Recall that after Rep. Jacqueline Sly (R-33/Rapid City) got done taking $6 million away from mostly small schools with her amendment nixing the two-year enrollment stabilizer, Rep. Wayne Steinhauer (R-9/Hartford) tacked the following declaration of legislative intent onto Senate Bill 131, the new K-12 funding formula:

    It is the intent of the Legislature that any money appropriated for teacher compensation using the education funding plan included in this Act be used to directly improve teacher recruiting and retention and that the school districts advance this goal by increasing starting teacher salaries and providing for the rapid acceleration of teacher salaries for those below the midpoint in that teacher’s applicable pay scale [Senate Bill 131, Section 28, as amended, 2016.03.08].

    The board’s plan does indeed align with the new formula’s intent: boost base pay and accelerate raises below the midpoint to encourage recruitment of new teachers. But does it align with good policy?

    An eager reader fortuitously forwards this new report from the Learning Policy Institute on the benefits of having experienced teachers:

    As teachers gain experience—both within their first few years in the classroom as well as later in their careers—they are better able to foster student learning. This is particularly true when teachers are working in supportive and collegial school environments where teachers engage in common planning and share in decision-making, school staff are focused on a shared vision for student achievement, and principals are supportive. A more stable and experienced teaching staff benefits students across the entire school, as more experienced teachers are better able to support their less experienced colleagues in producing student achievement. Importantly, retention is also higher in this type of school environment, creating a virtuous cycle in which supportive and collegial schools are able to attract and retain excellent, experienced teachers, who are the ones best positioned to contribute to school-wide learning and greater student achievement [Tara Kini and Anne Podolsky, “Does Teaching Experience Increase Teacher Effectiveness? A Review of the Research,” Learning Policy Institute, June 2016, p. 29].

    So not only do veteran teachers do more for our kids, but they also help the new teachers do more for our kids.

    And you know how Rapid City has a higher proportion of low-income and American Indian students than many South Dakota school districts? Teacher experience matters there, too:

    The pursuit of policies to simultaneously build an experienced, continually-learning teaching workforce while reducing teacher turnover also makes economic sense. A study published in 2007 found that, at that time, the costs to school districts of replacing a teacher who leaves in the early part of her career ranged from $4,366 in a small rural district to nearly $18,000 in a large urban district, at an estimated national cost of more than $7 billion annually. With these costs likely even higher today, this is not a wise use of scarce resources that could instead be used to create conditions which would retain teachers and improve their effectiveness. Given the research demonstrating that teacher effectiveness improves, on average, with experience, policies to keep experienced teachers in the classroom and reduce teacher turnover can increase student achievement and reduce student absenteeism. In turn, this can contribute to long-term economic benefits to students and to taxpayers in terms of reduced grade retention, special education costs, and drop out rates. Such policies are especially critical for schools serving large concentrations of low-income students and students of color, who are more likely to be taught by inexperienced teachers churning through their schools [Kini and Podolsky, 2016, p. 29].

    Enhanced compensation and opportunities to avoid flat career trajectories are among the policy Kini and Podolsky’s policy recommendations for keeping experienced teachers. Rapid City’s faithful implementation of the Steinhauer amendment may recruit new teachers (although the state’s target average salary of $48,500 still leaves Rapid City $9,000 behind the estimated current average pay in Wyoming), but it falls short on retaining experienced teachers.

    The board has declared an impasse, which means the board can now impose whatever salary agreement it wants (which makes clear the actual power of the teachers’ union in South Dakota).

  • SDEA Gives Primary Support to 15 Republicans Who Backed Teacher Pay Plan

    Bob Mercer notes that the South Dakota Education Association is giving money to Republicans who supported the half-penny sales tax for teacher pay this year.

    The South Dakota Educators Political Involvement Committee, SDEA’s PAC, reports five independent expenditures in the form of direct mail for Rapid City Republicans.

    SD-EPIC, independent expenditures, reported 2016.06.01
    SD-EPIC, independent expenditures, reported 2016.06.01.

    Haverly, Partridge, Rampelberg, Sly, and Solano all voted for House Bill 1182 this Session. Sly co-chaired the Blue Ribbon K-12 task force that came up with the plan; Sly also offered the last-minute House floor amendment to the new K-12 funding formula (Senate Bill 131) that knocked about $6 million off the amount the state would put toward teacher pay in schools with declining enrollments. All five of these Republican recipients of SDEA’s support face GOP primary challenges from hard right-wingers—Bob Mercer labels them “ultras”—who are whacking SDEA’s favorites for supporting the biggest tax increase in state history.

    SDEA/EPIC’s pre-primary report listed direct contributions to the above five Republicans and several other candidates:

    Name of Candidate or Committee (candidates ordered by District) Amount
    South Dakota Republican Party $750
    The Majority Project $750
    South Dakota Democratic Party $1,000
    Tidemann for State Senate $1,000
    Peters for State Senate $1,500
    Willadsen for State House $500
    Holmes for State House $500
    Zikmund for State House $500
    Kirschman for State Senate $500
    Peterson for State House $500
    Schoenfish for State House $500
    Rampelberg for State Senate $1,500
    Johns for State House $500
    Conzet for State House $500
    Solano for State Senate $1,000
    Sly for State Senate $1,500
    Partridge for State Senate $1,000
    Haverly for State Senate $1,500
    Werner for State House $500
    Total $16,000

    SDEA essentially cancelled out the $750 it gave to the South Dakota Republican Party with the $750 it gave to The Majority Project, the South Dakota Democratic Party’s PAC.

    The only Democratic candidate on SDEA/EPIC’s list is Rep. Patrick Kirschman, who voted for this year’s teacher pay plan and now is running for the District 15 Senate seat against fellow Democrat Dr. Reynold Nesiba.

    If SDEA’s fifteen Republican primary picks prevail on Tuesday, thirteen of them (all except Senator Haverly and Rep. Werner) will face Democratic challengers in the November election. In that scenario, would SDEA continue to support conservative incumbents who have been part of a Republican caucus that resisted teacher pay increases and let South Dakota teacher pay languish in the national cellar for thirty years, or would SDEA swing to support new Democratic legislators who will more reliably protect and enhance the progress we finally made this year on teacher pay?

    p.s.: I ask the above question with a keen sense of self-interest. Republican Rep. Al Novstrup is running for the District 3 Senate seat. He voted for HB 1182 and SB 131. He faces a Democratic challenger—me—who advocated raising South Dakota teacher pay to more regionally competitive levels with a less regressive tax plan and no assumed or coerced staff reductions.

  • SD Teacher Pay May Jump from 51st to 43rd; Still Last in Region

    Governor Dennis Daugaard says his plan to raise teacher pay is working:

    “There’s a variation in the kinds of increases we’re seeing, but no question across the board we’re seeing increases everywhere and substantial ones,” Gov. Dennis Daugaard said.

    The State doesn’t have all the new teacher pay numbers compiled yet, but Governor Dennis Daugaard is happy with the reports he is hearing so far. The new law requires 85 percent of the new money to go to teachers.

    “School districts have that standard they have to meet. There’s a tool online that they can use to make sure they’re meeting the standard and I’m seeing it being met by school districts all across the board,” Daugaard said [Erich Schaffhauser, “Teacher Pay Numbers,” KELO-TV, 2016.05.15].

    The Governor’s new funding formula (see 2016 Senate Bill 131) calls for South Dakota’s average K-12 teacher pay to reach $48,500 in the next school year. According to the new NEA Rankings of the States 2015 and Estimates of School Statistics 2016, that would represent an average raise for South Dakota teachers of $6,475, or 15.4%, over the current estimated teacher salary.

    National Education Association, "Rankings & Estimates: Rankings of the States 2015 and Estimates of School Statistics 2016," May 2016, p. 92.
    National Education Association, “Rankings & Estimates: Rankings of the States 2015 and Estimates of School Statistics 2016,” May 2016, p. 92. (Click to embiggen!)

    According to the NEA data, the nationwide average teacher salary has risen 18.3% since the 2005–2006 school year. That’s an annual rate of 1.69%. If that decade trend continues for the rest of the nation in the coming school year, reaching $48,500 in South Dakota would jump our teachers from 51st to 43rd in the nation. $48,500 would be 82.1% of the projected national average teacher salary of $59,048.

    Jumping up eight spots nationally would still leave us in the regional basement:

    State current estimated average teacher salary projected 2016–2017 (SB 131 target in SD; 1.69% growth elsewhere)
    Iowa $54,416 $55,338
    Minnesota $56,910 $57,874
    Montana $51,215 $52,083
    Nebraska $51,364 $52,234
    North Dakota $50,237 $51,088
    South Dakota $42,025 $48,500
    Wyoming $57,761 $58,740

    The Governor’s new funding formula will close the gap significantly with North Dakota and other neighboring states, but we will remain the only state in the region not valuing teachers enough to pay them in the fifties.

    The goal of this year’s teacher pay plan was to pay our teachers regionally competitive wages. As predicted, SB 131 leaves us losing that competition. The Governor and the Legislature are raising teacher pay, but not enough. If we’re serious about recruiting and retaining the best teachers, we need to return to Pierre in 2017 and raise teacher pay to the regional median, more like $53,000. We can lift ourselves from last place in the nation; now let’s lift ourselves from last place in the region.

  • SF Catholic Schools Hoping to Raise Teacher Pay 10% to Compete with Public School Raises

    South Dakota’s Catholic schools are feeling the pressure to pay their teachers what they are worth. Sioux Falls Catholic Schools Foundation exec Michelle Katen is hoping to raise money to boost salaries at O’Gorman at the rest of the Queen City’s Catholic schools proportionately to the boost public school teachers will get:

    Katen’s goal is to see a 10 percent salary increase for Catholic school teachers this fall.

    “We do an amazing job of fundraising for brick and mortar and buildings, and it’s now time to take care of our living stones,” Katen said.

    Catholic school teachers have historically made less than their public school counterparts.

    The average teacher pay for the Catholic schools in the city is $36,575, which was below the state average even before the pay increases approved earlier this year.

    South Dakota’s average teacher pay moves up to $48,500 this year, and even with the 10 percent increase Catholic school teachers will make less than $40,000 annually [Megan Raposa, “Catholic Schools Work to Keep Salaries Competitive,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2016.05.10].

    Raposa makes two math errors in that last statement. First, South Dakota’s average teacher pay does not move up to $48,500 this year. $48,500 is the target salary specified in the new funding formula enacted in Senate Bill 131. The $60.4 million appropriated by the state from the new half-penny sales tax of House Bill 1182 in strict accordance with the SB 131 formula can raise statewide average teacher pay no more than around $46,500.

    Second, if the Sioux Falls Catholic Schools raise pay 10%, their new average salary will be $40,233.

    That 10% raise won’t do much to improve the Catholic schools’ competitiveness in the labor market. If their average teacher salary is $36,575 right now, they are at 77% of the average salary I calculate for the Sioux Falls school district. If the Catholics give their teachers 10% raises, they’ll match the approximately 10% raise Sioux Falls public school teachers are getting, which means they’ll still be making just a bit more than three-fourths what their colleagues get.

    Hmm… if a private education is more valuable to its customers than a public school education, shouldn’t the folks providing that education be making more than their public competitors? The market seems to be working in reverse in that situation.

  • New Target Student-Teacher Ratios Higher Than Current Practice in Most SD Schools

    An statistically inclined reader analyzes the state’s numbers on the new K-12 funding package and produces this table and chart showing how the new target student-teacher ratios on which the new school funding formula is based relate to actual staffing ratios in our 150 school districts.

    Actual vs. target student-teacher ratios, by 2015 Student Aid Fall Enrollment groups.
    Actual vs. target student-teacher ratios, by 2015 Student Aid Fall Enrollment groups.
    Actual vs. target student-teacher ratios, by 2015 Student Aid Fall Enrollment groups.
    Actual vs. target student-teacher ratios, by 2015 Student Aid Fall Enrollment groups.

    The blue curve is where we are; the red curve is where the new funding formula in Senate Bill 131 says we should be. Taken by group, most small and medium school districts need to shed some teachers (or take on a bunch more students!) to climb up to the prescribed red ratios.

    My calculations, which have focused on individual schools rather than aggregates by enrollment or other factors, show 118 schools with staffing totals higher than what the new K-12 formula will fund. The 45 smallest schools all have lower student-teacher ratios (i.e., more teachers) than SB 131 says they should. The median enrollment of the 32 schools that have student-teacher ratios higher than the formula funds is 973; the average enrollment among those lucky schools (lucky because they will get funding for more teachers than they currently have) is 2,019.

    The above table and chart subsume those specifics into group averages, but they support the same conclusion: our new K-12 funding formula says that about 80% of our school districts have too many teachers, and in general, only our largest school districts, mostly those with four-digit enrollment (15 out of 23 of them, by my count), are achieving the staff efficiency our Governor and Legislature expect.

  • New Funding Formula Falls Short for Aberdeen Area Schools

    Katherine Grandstrand goes to town on the new funding formula and finds that, while all 23 of the school districts in the Aberdeen American News coverage area get more money from the new K-12 funding formula (and her numbers match mine), most will not get enough new state money to raise their average teacher pay to the $48,500 target written into the new teacher-pay law.

    Grandstrand samples 23 districts and reports their fall 2015 enrollment, the number of teachers funded by the new formula, and the new state money that would come based on those numbers. Those numbers will change, of course, based on fall 2016 enrollment. But as it stands, only three of the 23 schools listed—Aberdeen, Herreid, and Langford—receive enough money to pay their Senate Bill 131 formula-funded teachers an average salary beating $48,500.

    Part of the problem is that the average salary in northeastern South Dakota is just about $2,000 less than the statewide average. DOE stats show the average statewide teacher salary in the 2015 school year was $40,880. For the 23 AAN-region districts, that average was $38,894, 95.1% of the statewide average. Apply the SB 131 funding formula to estimated 2% increases this school year, and that gap remains: $48,357 for the statewide average, $46,383 for the AAN region. (Bright side: that northeast region average creeps up to 95.9% of the statewide average.)

    New state money for 23 AAN-region schools $4,869,108
    Teachers funded by SB 131 formula 767.68
    Average raise for formula-funded teachers $6,343
    AY2015 avg salary $38,894
    AY2016 avg salary $39,672
    AY2017 avg salary for funded teachers $46,383
    Actual AY2015 teachers 819.40
    Actual average raise $5,942
    AY2017 average salary for actual AY2015 teachers $45,614

    The averages creep back if we look at actual teachers rather than the lower staff numbers the SB 131 formula prescribes for all but three of the 23 AAN-region schools (Aberdeen, Gettysburg, and Warner). Rejecting the SB 131 and sharing the new money equally with all teachers (as counted at the end of AY 2015, the most recent numbers available) pulls the new AY2017 average to $48,098. The AAN-region schools would fall back a bit further, to $45,614, 94.8% of the statewide average.

    And of course, these numbers assume all of the schools would spend every penny of the new money on teacher pay. Such extreme budgeting contravenes the presumptions of the new funding formula, which expects that schools will spend 59 cents out of every dollar on teacher pay, 17 cents on teacher benefits, and 24 cents on other staff and overhead. If schools operated exactly the way the formula expects, average teacher salary in the AAN-region schools would just break $43,000, more than 10% shy of the target average of $48,500.

  • Educators Picked the Right Battle Fighting Harder for Teacher-Pay Revenue Than Formula Revisions

    Ken Santema says the teachers union and other education advocates should have focused as much attention on Senate Bill 131, the new K-12 funding formula, as they did on House Bill 1182, the sales tax increase that funds the higher teacher salaries and other provisions of that funding formula:

    …Included in this post is a picture of the House gallery as HB 1182 was being debated. The gallery was full of teachers and administrators. A LOT of attention on was placed on this bill, and away from SB 131. HB 1182 had little or nothing to do with whether teachers got a pay raise. It was one of almost a half dozen proposals to fund a pay raise, but it did nothing to actually control that pay raise. Teachers should have been more interested in SB 131 than worrying about which revenue increase to back.

    SB 131 is the bill where attention should have been placed. Yet the galleries were basically empty in each chamber as SB 131 was debated. This bill actually sets the policy as to how the new revenues will be handled to increase teacher pay. At the most basic level this is being done by allocating money to schools on a per teacher basis instead of a per student basis. That means schools will have to maintain certain ratios to actually give the intended pay raises to teachers… [Ken Santema, “The Sly Amendment and Small School Consolidation,” SoDakLiberty, 2016.03.30].

    I have to disagree with Santema’s contention that the sales tax increase was mostly irrelevant to receiving a pay raise. HB 1182 was a necessary though not sufficient condition for raising teacher pay. And no one in that gallery was worrying about which revenue increase to back; it was apparently determined before the Governor’s State of the State Address on opening day of Session that House Bill 1182’s half-penny sales tax was the only revenue increase that stood hot soup’s chance on Lake Herman of passing. SDEA, SASD, ASBSD, and everybody else packing the gallery and the lobby and the inboxes knew from decades of experience that the hard fight wouldn’t be for the formula—you can get almost any legislator to say, “Yes, we should pay teachers more”—but would be for the tax increase to fund that formula. They were right: the education lobby had to work harder on HB 1182 to secure fewer votes than SB 131 got. HB 1182 required two-thirds votes, while SB 131 only required majority votes. The education lobby’s efforts reflected a harder climb up a higher hill.

    I do agree with Santema that SB 131 throttles small-school funding to press them toward consolidation. That’s a feature, not a bug. It was built into the formula from the beginning. The consolidation pressure took different forms: the House reduced the pressure by lowering the funded teacher-student ratios for smaller schools, then increased it by removing the two-year-average enrollment cushion. I don’t like that pressure—if we need to consolidate schools, then legislators should be honest and declare what size schools and, by unavoidable extension, what size communities they deem unviable. I’d have preferred we pass the Frerichs Amendment to restore new funding promised to nearly half of our school districts. But from the start of Session, the education lobby knew the formula would contain some consolidation pressure. They counted the dollars and the votes, they picked their battle, and they passed what they could pass.

    The sales tax increase made the formula revision possible. Passing the funding formula would not have made the sales tax increase possible. The funding formula falls short of the promised salary increase, but we wouldn’t even be talking about falling short if the education lobby hadn’t packed the gallery when they did.

    To finish the job, the education lobby now needs to catch its breath and tackle two new hills. First, teachers, administrators, and school board members need to get out the vote for the right legislators this fall. Second, they need to ride those legislators all next session to protect the sales tax commitment to education, fix the problems in the funding formula, and move us closer to regionally competitive teacher pay.

  • Frerichs Veto-Day Amendment to Restore $5.95M to K-12 Funding Fails in Senate

    Sen. Jason Frerichs
    Senator Jason Frerichs, Democrat from Wilmot

    If raising boring old regressive sales tax a half-percentage point to lift our teacher pay from 51st to 45th in the nation is being bold, then Senator Jason Freirchs is being bold italic.

    Yesterday during Veto Day in the South Dakota Legislature, the Wilmot Democrat took up the challenge from Bon Homme school superintendent Mike Elsberry to suspend the rules and propose a new bill to repeal the Sly Amendment to the new education funding formula. Formally, Senator Frerichs moved (at about 49:00 in the SDPB audio archive) “that the rules be suspended for the sole purpose of introducing, giving first reading to, dispensing with committee referral, and placing on today’s calendar a bill relating to revising the definition of fall enrollment for the purpose of education funding.”

    Senator Frerichs said his motion sought to rectify an “inequity” that happened on the House side with Senate Bill 131, when Rep. Jacqueline Sly successfully amended the new funding formula to take away from schools the option to base their funding on their average student enrollment from the two previous school years rather than on current fall enrollment. Senator Frerichs said the two-year averaging is important because “it smooths things out” for school districts who may not anticipate a “little hiccup” in their enrollment numbers. Senator Frerichs said that, compared to the version of the funding formula originally passed in the Senate, the Sly-amended formula takes one million dollars in new money from the Rapid City school district and $250,000 from four school districts in his own Legislative District 1. The whole point of overhauling the school funding formula, said Senator Frerichs, was to help school districts “know where they stand” and give them budgeting confidence. The Sly Amendment, said Frerichs, takes away that confidence.

    Senator Corey Brown (R-23/Gettysburg) asked Senator Frerichs how much his surprise bill would cost and whether it would trigger deficit spending. Senator Frerichs said various sources pegged the cost at five to six million but that the state would have excess revenues available.

    Senator Brown pounced on this weakness in the Frerichs proposal, saying that if the Senator were serious about restoring the two-year averaging option to the school funding formula, he’d have worked up numbers and brought them to other Senators earlier than “thirty seconds before we’re going to debate it on the floor.” Senator Brown acknowledged that the Sly Amendment makes budgeting harder for the schools and said it would be “absolutely appropriate” for someone to introduce the Frerichs measure next year, but he could not brook a surprise bill with no hearings.

    Senator Scott Parsley (D-8/Madison), who serves on the Appropriations Committee, said a Blue Ribbon task force member had assured his committee that revenue was available to cover the pre-Sly Amendment change to target student-teacher ratios. Senator Bernie Hunhoff (D-18/Yankton) likened the frustration lawmakers might have felt yesterday over just finding out about the Frerichs proposal to the frustration  school officials felt when the Sly Amendment popped up after committee hearings, in the final House floor debate on March 8, to knock an average of over $80,000 from each of 73 school district’s coming-year budgets. Senator Hunhoff said the Frerichs proposal would simply undo the damage of a significant, surprise, ill-understood change. As for funding, Senator Hunhoff expressed confidence that the Legislature would avoid any deficit in the likely special session on Medicaid expansion or in the supplemental budget adjustments of the 2017 Session.

    Senator Frerichs’s bold-italic intentions and Senator Parsley’s and Senator Hunhoff’s assurances persuaded five Republicans—Brock Greenfield, Jenna Haggar, Phil Jensen, Bruce Rampelberg, and Bill Van Gerpen—to join Frerichs and the seven other Senate Democrats—Jim Bradford, Angie Buhl O’Donnell, Troy Heinert, Hunhoff, Parsley, Jim Peterson, and Billie Sutton—in supporting this measure, which by my revised calculation would have put $5.95 million back into the new state aid to education, enough to make it theoretically possible for South Dakota to reach the new statutory target average teacher salary of $48,500. But thirteen yeas isn’t a majority, never mind the two-thirds necessary to do cool stuff like suspending the rules. Twenty Republicans, including my quitting District 3 Senator David Novstrup, told 73 school districts to sit on a tack.

    Remember Senator Frerichs’s proposal, and remember Senator Brown’s comments about supporting it later. Tack some solid funding sources (reserves! GOED!) to the Frerichs proposal, and let’s be ready for the next meeting of the Legislature, whether special this year or regular next January, when one of the first items we take up should be repeal of the Sly Amendment to restore a more stable funding formula for our schools.

  • Sly Amendment Prevents Funding Formula from Meeting Teacher Salary Goal

    Megan Raposa’s story this morning on the Sly Amendment to the new Senate Bill 131 K-12 funding formula   gets one thing right: Raposa uses Senator Bille Sutton’s (D-21/Burke) words to say that the change takes away the enrollment-averaging option that allowed schools with declining enrollment to “slow the bleeding” in their budgets. Allowing schools to base their state funding on the past two years’ average enrollment or their actual current fall enrollment, whichever is higher, provides a stable baseline for budgeting and smooths out untenable funding changes that could accompany sudden, unexpected, and temporary dips in enrollment. But that enrollment-averaging option is a Band-Aid for small injuries, not a lasting cure for an ailing community that is suffering from ongoing population loss.

    That said, why not offer aid and comfort to those communities?

    “I’ve taken a few calls from superintendents who say, ‘Is there anything we can do about changing the legislation back to the two-year averaging?'” [School Administrators of South Dakota Rob] Monson said. “And I’m sure there are ways to do it.”

    …For now, Sutton feels the legislature needs to act immediately to address enrollment calculation concerns.

    Senate candidate Cory Heidelberger D-Aberdeen also called for action in a news release sent Thursday. Heidelberger suggested finding the necessary money within the state budget reserve [Megan Raposa, “Schools Lose Way to ‘Slow the Bleeding’,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2016.03.28].

    Come on, Legislators! Give the Governor one more bill to sign... and make the law do what it says it will do!
    Come on, Legislators! Give the Governor one more bill to sign… and make the law do what it says it will do!

    The specific action I called for was Bon Homme superintendent Dr. Mike Elsberry’s proposal that the Legislature use Veto Day (today! 10 a.m.!) to restore the funding cut by the Sly Amendment, and I proposed more than one funding mechanism:

    Heidelberger supports a suggestion from Bon Homme superintendent Dr. Mike Elsberry (whose district sees its new state aid drop two-thirds under the enrollment amendment) that the Legislature use its final meeting on March 29 to pass emergency legislation to restore the past-two-years enrollment option to the K-12 funding formula. Heidelberger notes that the Legislature could find the $6 million necessary to restore that funding in at least two areas:

    • The state budget reserve currently has $127 million, $21 million more than last year at this time and $83 million more than in 2011. Restoring the enrollment cushion requires 5% of that reserve.
    • The Legislature appropriated $46 million to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Investing $6 million of that amount to help 73 school districts recruit talented teachers and their families seems a prudent investment in local economic development [CA Heidelberger, press release, 2016.03.24].

    Note that I say $6 million. Raposa’s article refers to the $5 million that the Sly Amendment purports to claw back to pay for the change of the funded minimum student-teacher ratio from 12.5 to 12 for the smallest school districts in South Dakota. According to my calculations, based on the data DOE is circulating to the schools, the Sly Amendment knocks $6.1 million off the amount of new money going to schools in FY2017.

    Raposa also quotes SASD’s Monson minimizing the issue of the Sly Amendment: “With the influence of the $67 million coming in, it appears that everyone is better off.” $67 million is the old figure from the Governor’s original explanation of his iteration of the Blue K-12 panel’s plan. The Sly Amendment knocked $5.95 million* off the new money, bringing the new amount headed to our 150 school districts to $60.1 million. If every penny of that money were divided equally among the 9,432.4 teaching FTEs on record last school year, we could give every teacher in South Dakota a raise of $6,400, which I calculate would fall about $400 short of the funding formula’s target of a statewide average teacher salary of $48,500. Putting the enrollment-average option back would give each teacher another $630* and just beat the amount Senate Bill 131 says we are supposed to reach.

    Come on, Legislature: do what the law says you mean to do. Repeal the Sly Amendment, put that $5.95 million back, slow the bleeding, and meet our teacher salary goal for FY2017.

    *Update 2016.03.30 10:52 CDT: I originally reported the Sly Amendment cut $6.1 million; I have since revised my calculations to find the amount is closer to $5.95 million. I have adjusted the above figures accordingly.