Governor Daugaard is increasing K-12 spending by 2%... or is he?
The Governor is recommending a 2.0% inflationary increase to the base per student allocation for FY2016, which is 0.5% higher than the statutory required 1.5% increase for FY2016. This brings the per student allocation for general education to $4,876.76 for FY2016, an increase of $95.62 per student over the base FY2015 level [Bureau of Finance and Management, "Summary of Recommended Budget Adjustments," Fiscal Year 2016 proposal, 2014.12.02, p. 1].
O.K., looking good so far. 2% is better than a kick in the pants, and it's better than the 1.5% statute requires. The Governor's proposed per-student allocation also reaches a landmark: for the first time, the Governor is proposing to spend more money per student than Governor Mike Rounds and the Legislature did in FY 2011. But don't cheer too loudly: the percentages are simply catching up with Dennis. His "new norm" of setting education back five years remains the norm.
But wait—read the next paragraph in the budget summary, and you may see that 2% isn't really 2%:
In addition to the inflationary increase to the formula, the Governor also recommends funding for the Technology in Schools budget, payments to sparse school districts, and statewide assessment costs to be included as an additional component in the state aid formula. The budget increase for state aid to general education will be offset by corresponding decreases within the Technology in Schools, Sparsity, and Educational Services and Resources budgets, for a net savings of $2,605,288 in general funds. The net savings is used to increase the per student allocation growth from 1.5% to 2.0% [BFM, 2014.12.02, p. 1].
A quarter of the K-12 increase—the difference between 1.5% and 2.0%—appears not to be new money. It's a budget trick, moving money for tech, sparsity, and tests from a separate column into the general fund. The Governor isn't making any tests go away or sending BIT guys out to fix the schools computers for them or pulling sparse school district fifty miles closer to Rapid City. If I'm reading this right, schools won't really have 2% more money to work with. They'll have 1.5% more, the minimum effort the law says Governor Daugaard has to make.
And minimum effort for education is what the Governor has been doing all along.