Change in K-12 homeless student enrollment, SY 2010 to SY 2012, National Center for Homeless Education, October 2013. (click to enlarge)

Change in K-12 homeless student enrollment, SY 2010 to SY 2012, National Center for Homeless Education, October 2013. (click to enlarge)

Here's a statistic I don't think Governor Daugaard mentioned when he extolled the strength of our state on Tuesday: in the 2011–2012 school year, South Dakota school districts reported 2,542 homeless students. Between SY 2009–2010 and SY 2011–2012, South Dakota saw a 68% increase in the number of homeless students. The only states with higher increases over the same period were Michigan (96%) and North Dakota (224%). The nation as a whole saw a 24% increase in homeless students. Eight states saw decreases.

Here's a comparison of homeless student numbers among South Dakota's neighbors from the National Center from Homeless Education:

Number of homeless students
state SY 2009-10 SY 2010-11 SY 2011-12 % change SY0910-SY1112
Iowa 6631 7046 7370 11.1%
Minnesota 9221 11076 11848 28.5%
Montana 1445 1507 1762 21.9%
Nebraska 2188 2674 3080 40.8%
North Dakota 836 870 2712 224.4%
South Dakota 1512 1883 2542 68.1%
Wyoming 1021 837 1173 14.9%

Note that this surge in the number of homeless students hit South Dakota schools hardest in the 2011–2012 school year, the same year that Governor Daugaard cut K-12 funding by over 6%. That's like seeing the Missouri River rising and spending less on sandbags.

North and South Dakota's increases in homeless students stand out in raw numbers and as percentages of total enrollment. Here are the percentages of homeless students in each state in our region, based on total enrollment figures from the National Center for Education Statistics (SY 2010 and 2011 here, SY 2012 here):

Percent of Homeless Students
SY 2009-10 SY 2010-11 SY 2011-12
Iowa 1.3% 1.4% 1.5%
Minnesota 1.1% 1.3% 1.4%
Montana 1.0% 1.1% 1.2%
Nebraska 0.7% 0.9% 1.0%
North Dakota 0.9% 0.9% 2.8%
South Dakota 1.2% 1.5% 2.0%
Wyoming 1.2% 0.9% 1.3%

Think about your school. Pick out fifty kids. Imagine one of them is homeless. That's South Dakota. Our homeless student rate of 2.0% in SY 2012 still beats the national average of 2.4%, but it's a problem growing faster here than in most other states.

According to Governor Daugaard's Tuesday speech, South Dakota's economy is doing fine. Yet Governor Daugaard said he is going on the road during this Legislative session to meet with chambers of commerce and employers to talk up his economic development programs, which remain his overriding priority. I suppose if I were the Governor in an election year, I'd want to accentuate my positives, too. But it would be nice if, in the midst of his "Yay, business!" tour, the Governor might spend an equal amount of time visiting schools, parents, and homeless shelters to talk to the folks whom his economic development programs are leaving out in the cold.