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LRC: Ellsworth B-21 Expansion Requires More Spending on Douglas and Rapid City Schools

Surrogacy is too “dicey” an issue for the Legislature to allow the Legislative Research Council to publish any information, but not South Dakota’s enslavement to America’s anti-life imperial war machine. One new LRC issue memorandum accepted by the Legislature’s Executive Board this week discusses the economic impact of the expansion of Ellsworth Air Force Base to accommodate the B-21.

Among the impacts to local budgeting is the need to expand the Douglas and Rapid City school district facilities to handle the increased number of kids those Air Force families will send to our schools:

The estimated number of dependent children of military personnel after B-21 implementation is 4,553. Of those children, 2,359 would be school age, resulting in 294 additional students enrolled in local districts. The Douglas School District and the Rapid City Area School District primarily serve Ellsworth AFB families. The Douglas School District, located in Box Elder, would be particularly impacted and is already experiencing considerable growth.

The Douglas School District had a Fall 2019 enrollment of 2,856 students in K-12. School administrators anticipate the district enrollment could climb to between 4,500 to 5,000 students in five years. Currently, the district comprises one preschool/special services school, three elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. The district purchased land to add a new elementary school in the near-term, which is planned to be followed by a new high school for 1,400 students and three more elementary schools to accommodate 500 students each. In existing plans, the current high school would become a second middle school. Federal funds would likely be used to help finance building expansions. The Douglas School District receives approximately $15.6 million in state funds, along with an additional $4.5 million in federal Impact Aid.

The Rapid City School District is the second largest district in the state and recently proposed a bond plan to replace and renovate aging facilities. The vote for a bond authorization of nearly $190 million failed to receive the 60 percent majority required by state law, receiving 56 percent. With increased growth already occurring in the Rapid City area, school capacity and aging facilities may be a challenge to address with additional incoming personnel both from Ellsworth AFB and indirect employment [South Dakota Legislative Research Council, draft issue memorandum: “Ellsworth Air Force Base Expansion,” November 2020].

It’s nice that we can make some economic lemonade out of the lemons of big imperial government and global power projection. And it’s nice that the federal government again bails South Dakota out with federal Impact Aid. But the increased school needs brought by families serving the Ellsworth expansion reminds us that, far from subsisting on some sort of pioneer grit and self-reliance, South Dakota is on constant life support from Uncle Sam and must continue to invest in public works (here, public schools) to support that life support.


  1. o 2020-11-19 09:59

    I have wondered when/how does a military base decide to have a base school (federal) and when/how does the base decide to rely on surrounding (local) schools? As much as the boom could help a local district, that would put it in the fear of the bubble bursting when the base is downsized.

  2. ds 2020-11-19 15:34

    Sounds like alot of pie in the sky…as the B-21’s fly in the B-1’s will fly out. Only a temporary overlap.

  3. T 2020-11-19 20:49

    We will need the B’s the lock heads 35’s are being sold to the saudies thanks to trumpet

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