Dispelling The Myths

The Associated Schools Boards of South Dakota has released a paper which dispels many of the myths being forwarded by many in Pierre when it comes to education funding.

Historically, South Dakota has funded education on a what-is-available basis – which mirrors a pre-No Child Left Behind mentality to public education where school districts used funds to provide educational opportunities to South Dakota’s children. No Child Left Behind, though, changed the role of public education from an opportunities-based operation to an outcomes-based system. In public education today, states set high standards for yearly progress, and schools are expected to deliver results.

South Dakota’s school finance system, however, has failed to recognize this dramatic shift in philosophy. In order to achieve the ever-rising expectations, the debate on education funding must shift focus to allocating resources needed to meet the needs of every student. Doing so sets public schools up for success and delivers a brighter future for South Dakota’s students.

Some of the more interesting low-lights from the report include the fact that even though the state is devoting more money to education than they have before, the actual share of state revenue dedicated to education is on the decline especially when it comes to K-12 education.

Almost half of South Dakota’s 167 districts (77) have had to opt out of the state’s property tax limitation which results in over 21 million in local funding towards education that the state doesn’t match.

No state in the nation contributes less per student than South Dakota even though South Dakotans pay approximately the same share percentage wise in property taxes as the surrounding states.

For South Dakota to just come close to the average in teacher salaries of our surrounding states, we would have to invest over $46 million. Even when using South Dakota’s adequacy study which takes into account cost of living we would still need to invest over $32 million just be be on par with our neighbors.

After seeing the total waste of time and money spent on the research done by the State Aid Study Task Force and then seeing Gov. Round’s annual education band-aid funding recommendation, this report finally gives some perspective to the crisis we have in our schools. Now the question is what will our legislators do about it next month? Given their recent history, I am not holding my breath…

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