The 2014 South Dakota Legislature rejected a variety of calls to improve funding of K-12 education and settled for raising the per-student allocation for our public schools to $4,781.14. That figure is less than what we spent to educate each child five years ago.

KELO calls this money an "extra cushion." Baloney. "Extra cushion" is what you hand me when I'm already sitting on a really cushy chair. The Legislature and Governor are handing K-12 schools a wooden stool with a duct-taped leg.

The Baltic school staff to whom KELO speaks don't sound all that cushioned:

"Having our pay frozen for years is painful but more importantly, we weren't able to get things to our students that they really needed, whether it was textbooks or the technology that we think we need, additional classes that we weren't able to offer. Those things hurt and they hurt students and that's really what it comes down to," [middle school teacher Tara Melmer] Rollinger said.

..."There's a problem with school funding and something needs to be done with it. If we would have just stuck with the 1.6 percent inflationary, schools would have really been in trouble. So I think there is that recognition and hopefully this is the start," Baltic Principal Bob Sittig said [Brittany Larson, "State Aid Increase Provides Extra Cushion for Schools,", 2014.03.18].

The FY2015 budget isn't an invitation to a gleeful pillow fight; it's a pause in the beatings.

The only "cushion" discussed in the KELO story is Baltic's effort to "cushion" its budget by cutting back on Rollinger's hours:

Last year, Rollinger asked permission to work part-time because she wanted to spend more time at home with her kids. This gave the school district an extra cushion in their budget.

"I went to working 70-percent time. I don't think they would have gone and cut anybody necessarily because this allowed them to cut a little bit of money for the school year," Rollinger said [Larson, 2014.03.18].

Cutting teacher hours is not a cushion. It's a degradation of the school's ability to provide services to children. The Legislature's budget may allow Baltic bring Rollinger's position back to full-time, but that's not a great budget advance deserving celebration in the media and the voting booth; it's a mere return to a stingy status quo ante Daugaard.

p.s.: According to the minutes of the Baltic School Board from July 2, 2013, Baltic's average teacher salary is $36,265, $3,314 less than the statewide average teacher salary reported in the previous school year. Tara Melmer Rollinger, a college-educated professional, makes $25,893. If that's pay for 70% time, bringing her back to full time would cost $36,990.

Baltic's head custodian makes $40,446.24. Baltic's technology coordinator makes $63,173.78, 28% more than the highest paid teacher in the district.