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].
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.