According to Governing magazine, there are 1,916 total local government units in the state. This includes counties, cities, towns, townships, villages and school districts. In fact, South Dakota has the second most governmental units per capita in the country.
I suspect our number of remaining cities, towns and townships is probably not out of line. I assume they may be mostly necessary and reasonable as is. But our number of school districts seems excessive. We still have over 150 school districts remaining, even after some consolidation efforts decades ago. That’s a lot of superintendent and administrator salaries to pay [Joe Kirby, “Too Many Governments in South Dakota,” Sioux Falls Joe, 2022.08.29].
Kirby concerns himself primarily with unnecessary splits of Sioux Falls. Kirby sense that splitting the city between Minnehaha and Lincoln counties “inhibit[s]… a shared sense of community in our city.” He also dislikes the misalignment between Sioux Falls city limits and the school district boundaries of the Sioux Falls district and surrounding suburban and rural districts. The Department of Education’s Minnehaha and Lincoln maps show Harrisburg, Brandon Valley, Tri-Valley, West Central, Lennox, and Tea Area all claim little chunks of the city of Sioux Falls, while the Sioux Falls school district reaches beyond city limits to claim a dozen or so townships that Brandon Valley, Tri-Valley, and Baltic could fight over. Kirby advocates for one metro government and one school district to rule within Sioux Falls city limits.
Kirby admits he doesn’t know what the ideal number of school districts and counties would be, but he’d sure like the state to talk about it:
We don’t know how many “extra” school administrators and county officials we might have. We also don’t know what the “right number” of counties or school districts might be for a state like ours, with a small population spread over a geographically huge space. We can’t know until someone takes the time to study it. But of course, there’s always a political risk when proposing a disruption to the status quo [Kirby, 2022.08.29].
Such government smart-sizing interests Beth Warden, who turns Kirby’s blog post into a KSFY news story, but the school districts don’t want to talk about it:
Dakota News Now contacted Sioux Falls Public Schools and several surrounding school districts to ask for their thoughts and did not receive a response.
The state of Maryland and Florida have adopted even broader district boundaries, where entire counties are a single district [Beth Warden, “Sioux Falls Government Reform Advocate Promotes Having Only One School District Within City Boundary,” KSFY, 2022.09.01].
Maybe Kirby could get some traction for reconfiguring school districts with the Governor. After all, she’d prefer that Hillsdale College write all the curriculum and indoctrinate all of our students; maybe she’d get on board to have one statewide district, controlled by a team of conservatives hand-picked by the Governor to rubber-stamp the decisions of her Hillsdale College consultant to ensure that all students praise the Snow Queen and her White God.