Instead of finding them interning in an office or behind a fast food counter, these days, you’ll find many teens in some sort of summer school. Forty-two percent of teenagers were enrolled in classes last summer — almost four times the number of students enrolled in summer school in July 1985. By 2024, teenage workers will make up just 26% percent of the workforce, a reduction of almost half since 1948 when the same age group accounted for more than 52% of workers.
Increased competition, older workers returning to the workforce and weak economic growth are all contributing to the decline of teenagers in the workforce. But as schoolwork grows increasingly intense and homework eats up more time, data suggest the biggest reason some teens won’t be working this summer is that they simply don’t have time.
“Students are paying more attention to course work and spending more time on school activities,” said Teresa Morisi, branch chief of the Division of Occupational Employment Projections at the BLS [Kellie Ell, “More Teenagers Choosing Summer Studies over Jobs,” USA Today, 2017.06.21].
This decline in teen workers shows that the trend I noted in April—teen workforce participation dropping significantly in the last two recessions—extends further back in time, with nationwide teen workforce participation down from its 1978 peak of 71.8% to last year’s 43.2%:
The USA Today article mentions the rising minimum wage as a factor that encourages employers to hire older workers, but that wage/age pressure appears minor compared to the much larger trend of young people hitting the books rather than working as cooks to handle tougher classes and prepare for college.
So settle down, David Novstrup. The minimum wage isn’t driving kids out of the workforce; kids themselves are, as they find certain pursuits more important than the almighty dollar.
South Dakota’s $6,320 average annual in-state tuition and fees for two-year institutions are the third-most expensive in the nation, behind only New Hampshire and Vermont. California somehow manages to deliver two-year programs for a mere $1,430 a year in tuition and fees.
The LRC report calculates that making our vo-tech tuition competitive with Iowa’s $4,920 would require $8.03 million from the state. Matching the regional average of $3,995 would require $13.33 million.
LRC makes no funding projections for our universities, but they do find that our public universities are relatively costly as well. The LRC reports that over the last ten years, our university tuition has risen from third most costly to second most costly in the region:
While inflation (as measured by CPI) over the last decade has been 14%, South Dakota university tuition and fees have gone up 43% for residents and 61% for non-residents.
The scores clearly cluster along a diagonal showing that good scores on the English test correlate with good scores on the math test. However, run a diagonal from (0,0) to (100,100) and you’ll see that most of the dots fall up and left from that diagonal. That shows that students are generally scoring better on the English test than on the math test.
Aberdeen Central High School provides one seemingly drastic example: 72% of Central’s juniors in 2015–2016 scored proficient in English but only 33% scored proficient in math. (Juniors! SOHCAHTOA!) Supreintendent Becky Guffin explains away that gap as lag time in teaching catching up with the tests:
Guffin said the low scores are because it takes longer for the new standards to catch up with older students. Younger kids have been using the standards adopted in 2010 their whole school careers, while older students lived through the switch of standards.
“The high school has the most difficult time catching up with that,” Guffin said. “There may be more gaps with that because of the instruction they received previously because the standards were different at that particular grade level” [Katherine Grandstrand, “School Districts—Not Just Students—Get Report Cards,” Aberdeen American News, 2017.06.10].
You can mouse over the outliers in that upper-left area and find more high schools and middle schools than elementary schools, with noteworthy exceptions like Todd County’s Klein Elementary (English proficiency 75%, math 17%) and the Montrose Colony Elementary (English 55%, math 9%).
According to this chart, based on scores on the ACT an Accuplacer tests, the distribution of schools in percentage of students ready for college skews notably higher on both English and math than proficiency on the state tests. Aberdeen Central’s college readiness rates in 2015–2016 were 79% in English and 66% in math. That’s still a fifth of test takers not ready for college English and a third not ready for college math.
Aberdeen’s school board candidates were less shy about speaking with Dakota Free Press than our city council candidates. While only three in ten city candidates agreed to podcast interviews, four of our five school board candidates took the mighty DFP mic. You can click the following links to review DFP Podcast interviews with Renée Wise, Brian Sharp, Aaron Schultz, and Ken Santema before tomorrow’s vote.
Aberdeen voters get to pick three of the five candidates. I will cast votes for two: Aaron Schultz and incumbent Brian Sharp.
Aaron Schultz made the best impression on me. He has made his career in public service, interning on Capitol Hill, working for an indigenous rights group in D.C., and now working as director of Aberdeen’s United Way. His non-profit work will inform his fiscal decision-making and his understanding of local social issues affecting the services the school district must provide. Schultz’s work with indigenous peoples around the country and his own status as an enrolled member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate will add to the board a useful perspective on the increasing racial and cultural diversity among our students.
Brian Sharp [photo by Spencer Dobson]Incumbent Brian Sharp brings his own bit of diversity to the school board. When he made time to field my questions in his tractor barn during planting time, he pointed out that he’s the only active farmer on the school board, the only member and candidate he knows of paying agricultural property tax (which isn’t really property tax but a weird mutant hybrid of property and income tax). He doesn’t talk a lot—his answers were the most succinct of all the candidates we interviewed—and he’s the sort of flashy warrior I like to see running for office… but his mellow, confident approach may have something to do with why his neighbors have elected him to the school board four times already and will probably do so again tomorrow. I’ll show up and help them do so.
Renée Wise offered an intelligent and sincere conversation about what she wants as a school board member and as a parent from the school district. Her commitment to seeing the district provide more individualized instruction for dyslexic students like her daughter is honest and admirable.
However, as a teacher and parent, I think her focus on expanding individualized instruction through technology is ill-advised and impractical. The ideal individualized instruction is one-on-one interaction between a student and a teacher. Conventional schools can’t afford that student-teacher ratio. To individualize instruction for 20 students in a 90-minute class means each student gets 4.5 minutes of genuine individualized instruction… or more likely no such attention more days than not, as the teacher becomes a mere monitor and tech trouble-shooter as the kids do different lessons on computers.
Wise was able to speak to other issues, but I sense that her focus on her family’s specific issues might lead her to feel frustrated with the 95% of board meeting time that would not deal with those issues. Wise could grow into school board duties to deal with broader issues, but at this time, I’m not prepared to give her my vote.
Ken Santema has an inclination similar to Wise’s to bring more technology to the classroom, to make kids want to do their homework. In our podcast interview, he acknowledged more technology costs money and said the way to pay for it is to get rid of some teaching staff.
Don’t get me wrong: I like machines and spend a great deal of time with them learning and communicating. But I also recognize that every machine we incorporate into our schools should be supporting the work teachers do, not replacing teachers. Every teacher we cut from a school is one less role model or mentor who can make school memorable, or survivable, in a way that no machine can. Kids need more adults in their lives, not fewer, and not just to show them how to use machines, but how to use their brains and hearts.
I appreciate Santema’s conservative political philosophy. I appreciate his willingness in our interview to advocate higher local taxes to relieve us of the scourge of federal intrusion in our local schools. Santema is as capable of having serious policy discussions as any other candidate I’ve met this year. But he appears to view teachers and federal resources as burdens rather than opportunities. Such views don’t help schools solve the practical problems of teaching our kids.
The odd candidate out is incumbent Kevin Burckhard, whom I contacted on April 27 through the e-mail address listed on the Aberdeen board webpage. I received no response. My critique of non-responsive city council candidates applies to school board candidates as well.
I thus am voting for two of my allotted three school board candidates: newcomer Aaron Schultz and incumbent Brian Sharp. I am content to let my neighbors pick the third.
Hot off the Mac—the latest Dakota Free Press Podcast!
In lucky Episode #13, conservative blogger Ken Santema sits down with this liberal podcast to talk about his run for the Aberdeen school board.
But first, co-host Spencer Dobson and I discuss Trump’s budget war on Indians, Big Oil’s mercenary war on pipeline protestors, and the Koch Brothers’ war on democracy (with free pizza!). Then we hash out Billie Sutton’s status as a Blue Dog and newly declared candidate for Governor.
Below are resources for this week’s conversation. If you like what you hear, ring that Blog Tip Jarand help us fill the Internet with more great South Dakota podcasts!
Trump Budget Hates Indians (Noem not Helping) [01:43]
Marketplace this morning mentioned a new report from the Urban Institute on education funding. The report says that South Dakota does a poor job of getting more funding to the low-income students who can benefit from more K-12 funding the most, with districts serving more poor students getting $694 less in local funding per student on average than districts with financially better-off students. Interestingly, South Dakota state government makes some progress in balancing out that difference, directing an average of $446 more per student to districts with financially disadvantaged kids. Making an even bigger difference is the federal government, which gets $1,366 more per student on average to districts with poor students. That federal help makes us one of the four states (with Ohio, New Jersey, and Alaska) witha net “progressivity” of K-12 funding that exceeds $1,000.
Turn to page 34 of Donald Trump’s budget and you will see that while Il Duce wants to spend $598 billion less on keeping Americans healthy, he is willing to spend $277 million more on one health-related initiative that makes women worse off:
A 2011 study found that an “increasing emphasis on abstinence education is positively correlated with teenage pregnancy and birth rates.” Additionally, the states with the highest teen pregnancy rates — Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi — have policies that emphasize abstinence-only sexual education. The Guttmacher Institute also found that “no program of any kind has ever shown success in convincing young people to postpone sex from age 17, when they typically first have intercourse, until marriage,” and that teens who claim to practice abstinence often still have oral sex, which can put them at risk of STDs even if they aren’t having intercourse [Lisa Ryan, “Trump’s Proposed Budget Would Invest $277 Million in Abstinence-Only Education,” The Cut, 2017.05.24].
Boosting abstinence-only education, in complete contradiction of his own chracter and example, is one more sign that Trump views the budget as a conservative comedy routine, not a serious governing document.
Renée Wise, Aaron Schultz, Ken Santema, and incumbent Brian Sharp are running for three available seats on the Aberdeen school board. So is incumbent Kevin Burckhardt, but he didn’t the forum, so he gets no air time in this post.
With a juicier battery, I was able to get all of the statements from this portion of the League of Women Voters/Chamber of Commerce candidates’ forum Saturday. Here we go!
School lunch? Cheapest good meal in town, I say! Blogger Ken Santema steals the show by saying he would love to get rid of all federal funding for our school and raise our local taxes. Wise suggests growing school lunch in a school greenhouse.
Someone raises concerns that class sizes have gone up, particularly in the vocational classrooms. Again, Santema delivers the memorable line, noting that he appreciates the importance of having good supervision in shop class, since “as someone who’s lost a piece of my body to a power tool, I don’t want that to happen to a high school kid.” (Watch Aaron Schultz subtly glance over and try to count Santema’s fingers.)
Congresswoman Kristi Noem gets to celebrate her heartless, self-interested backing of Trumpcare with an eleven-day break, which I’m sure she will not use to hold town halls every day to explain what she voted for yesterday and why.
School districts rely on Medicaid, the federal health care program for the poor, to provide costly services to millions of students with disabilities across the country. For nearly 30 years, Medicaid has helped school systems cover costs for special education services and equipment, from physical therapists to feeding tubes. The money is also used to provide preventive care, such as vision and hearing screenings, for other Medicaid-eligible children.
…The new law would cut Medicaid by $880 billion, or 25 percent, over 10 years and impose a “per-capita cap” on funding for certain groups of people, such as children and the elderly….
…Under a little-noticed provision of the health care bill, states would no longer have to consider schools eligible Medicaid providers, meaning they would not be entitled to reimbursements.
“School-based Medicaid programs serve as a lifeline to children who can’t access critical health care and health services outside of their school,” said the letter sent this week by the Save Medicaid in Schools Coalition, which consists of more than 50 organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, and the School Superintendents Association [Erica L. Green, “A Little-Noticed Target in the House Health Bill: Special Education,” New York Times, 2017.05.03].
Medicaid’s role in schools goes beyond ensuring that students with disabilities have access to the medical services they need to succeed. Medicaid provides support for health care services delivered in school, which benefit all children — not just those enrolled in Medicaid. In a recent survey of school superintendents, almost half reported that they use the reimbursement their districts receive for services provided to Medicaid-eligible children to expand health-related services and supplies. This includes programs that monitor the health care needs of eligible children with certain conditions such as asthma and diabetes as well as operating clinics within schools to provide dental care to Medicaid-eligible children [Jessica Schubel, “Medicaid Helps Schools Help Children,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2017.04.19].
If Noem is thinking about anything other than doing Trump’s bidding to bolster her chances of winning the Republican gubernatorial primary next June, she probably thinks that she can make up for cutting medical services by giving kids bigger, fattier school lunches.
Whoo-hoo—the newest Dakota Free Press podcast heads to the farm to interview school board member Brian Sharp, who is running for reëlection. Sharp is the only active farmer on the school board, and he says that unique ag perspective is important in a school district that serves a large ag community outside of Aberdeen city limits and that will offer vocational agriculture classes for the first time at its A-TEC Academy next fall.
But first, Spencer and I talk about bad abortion politics causing more women to die in Texas, a Chinese company applying to dig for uranium and dump toxic water in the Black Hills, and Republicans pretending to be “inclusive.” We also talk about what we’ve learned (and what Donald Trump hasn’t) from Trump’s first 100 days in office.
Below are resources for this week’s conversation. If you like what you hear, ring that Blog Tip Jar and help us fill the Internet with more great South Dakota podcasts!