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Longer School Year, Less Funding: Plan Sets K-12 Education Back Five Years

Last updated on 2014.06.26

Update 15:45 CDT: Rep. Kathy Tyler (D-4/Big Stone City) checks in with better intel than whatever Pat was reading. Rep. Tyler says the interim committee plans to restore the per-student allocation to $4,805 in one year, not two as Pat reported and on which I based my calculations below. Schools will thus remain just five years behind the funding levels they could have been at if Republicans weren't in charge.

Also, the interim committee will recommend that the PSA increase proportionately to the days they recommend be added to the school year. Wow: the Legislature may be realizing education is not a free lunch.

***original post!***

Mr. Powers reports (not from a press release, for once!) that the Legislature's interim committee will recommend extending the school year by ten days and increasing the per-student allocation to $4,805. (Ten more days in the school year... good thing kids don't vote!) Powers says the school year extension would phase in over five years. The funding "boost" (quote snarks explained in a moment) would phase in over two years.

Put that "boost" in historical context, and you'll see that this proposal only perpetuates the Republican obsession with starving education.

The stingy Rounds-Daugaard administrations have set the amount we invest per student in K-12 education back five years. "Increasing" the per-student allocation to $4,805 by the fiscal year 2016 budget restores the PSA to its fiscal year 2010 level, prior to the freeze Governor Rounds imposed in FY 2011 and the 8.6% cut Governor Daugaard imposed in FY 2012. So the funding proposal Powers attributes to GOP Senator Bill Van Gerpen actually makes our education catch-up flow out of the bottle even more slowly: by FY 2016, our K-12 schools will be six years behind, not five.

The shortfall is worse if you consider where our schools could have been if we'd maintained our commitment to K-12 education. From 2006 to 2010, the school funding formula delivered at least a 3% annual increase* to the per-student allocation. Had we maintained that 3% increase rate, our schools would have $782, almost 17% more, to spend per student this year.

Van Gerpen's proposal to restore the PSA to $4,805 grows the PSA at only 1.9% for two years. So compared to our earlier 3% increases, the GOP would drag our schools down $932, or 19%. (See chart below for more numbers!)

Now let's get uglier and factor in the extension the interim committee apparently wants to impose. Saying we want to extend the school year by ten days is tricky, because South Dakota requires instructional hours, not days. State law mandates that kids in grades 4 through 12 spend at least 962.5 hours in class each year. A school district that has kids in class for six hours a day (like Spearfish High School, with four 90-minute class periods a day) can fulfill that requirement in 161 days. Go eight hours a day (not counting recess and lunch), and your school could be done in 121 days.

So saying you want to extend the school year by ten days doesn't really fit how state law currently defines the minimum school term. While we wait for the Legislative Research Council to straighten that out for our legislators, let's assume that a ten-day school-year extension means adding sixty instructional hours.

By FY 2018, we'd require 1022.5 hours in class each year. That's 6.2% more school. That's more work, more gas for the buses, more markers for the board, more pay for the teachers (because we don't expect people to work more hours for no extra pay, right? right?!). If we maintain the Van Gerpen funding increase, how much are we investing per student per hour?

FY PSA actual incr PSA if 3% incr hours in school hours incr PSA/hr
2010 4,805 3.00% 962.5 4.99
2011 4,805 0.00% 4,949.15 962.5 4.99
2012 4,390 -8.64% 5,097.62 962.5 4.56
2013 4,491 2.30% 5,250.55 962.5 4.67
2014 4,626 3.01% 5,408.07 974.5 1.2% 4.75
2015 4,715 1.92% 5,570.31 986.5 1.2% 4.78
2016 4,805 1.92% 5,737.42 998.5 1.2% 4.81
2017 4,897 1.92% 5,909.54 1,010.5 1.2% 4.85
2018 4,991 1.92% 6,086.83 1,022.5 1.2% 4.88
2019 5,087 1.92% 6,269.44 1,022.5 0.0% 4.97
Per-student allocation data from South Dakota Department of Education, "State Aid to K-12 General Education Funding Formula," issue brief, March 2013

By FY 2019, we'll be sending kids to school for 60 more hours a year but spending two cents less per hour on their education than we did in FY 2010. Extend the school year and adopt the Van Gerpen funding plan, and you set South Dakota's investment in K-12 education back nine years.

We have two and a half months until session: call your legislators, and see if they want to invest in K-12 education or starve it even worse.

*Update 11:48 CDT: An eager reader corrects me: I originally mistakenly stated that schools were guaranteed a minimum funding increase of 3%. I regret the error and have edited the text to reflect the actual increases given from 2007 to 2010.


  1. DB 2013.10.24

    Parental involvement will do more for your kid than any amount of money given to a school on their behalf will. The quality of education hasn't declined, it merely has shifted the entire burden on the teacher to the point where they think their only solution is to get more money. My success came mainly from involved parents.

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.10.24

    Totally with you on parental involvement, DB. Now let's pay some better wages so South Dakota parents can afford to stay home more and be involved.

  3. Rorschach 2013.10.24

    So the GOP wants school districts in 2019 to get by on less student aid per hour of instruction time than in 2010? Seems like the goal is to ensure that our teachers are paid far below those in all other states and to force local taxpayers to opt out and raise their own property taxes. This is the GOP vision for K-12 education?

  4. Jana 2013.10.24

    Cory hits the nail on the head!!!

    While we boast and celebrate our cheap labor we look the other way when it comes to parenting and the costs that are associated with low wages, poverty and parents who are working 3 jobs.

    Of course, legislating a minimum wage is against the GOP's strong principals of legislating employee - employer relationships...unless of course it's legislating being a 'right to work' state.

  5. DB 2013.10.24

    A simple book before bed, little help here and there with homework, working with me when I was young on letters/colors/numbers......that's all it takes. I don't think a good share of parents even do that little bit anymore. Most of my friends had both working parents, and the single working parent families were so spoiled they ended up screwing up big in life. I think the decline of the family unit and the decline of personal responsibility plays a much bigger role than just cash. Most moms don't play homemaker like they used to unless they can act like Desperate Housewives of LA. Sad.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.10.24

    ...which anecdotal evidence, DB, does not justify paying parents less than living wages. It simply reinforces the point we agree on, that parents need to be conscientious. Were all those kids raised in single-income families in the 50s and 60s spoiled? What about all the farm kids who grew up right next to Mom and Dad all day?

  7. Kathy Tyler 2013.10.24

    Correction: the funding boost is for the 2014 school year. Two years had been discussed but was dismissed.

  8. Kathy Tyler 2013.10.24

    Oops, and the extra days would be funded proportionately to the PSA.

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.10.24

    Whew! Thank you, Rep. Tyler! Next time, tell Pat to get the whole story straight. So the Legislature plans to keep the K-12 system just five years behind on funding instead of extending Governor Daugaard's new norm to set us nine years behind. How nice.

  10. DB 2013.10.24

    I just think money is but a small part of the bigger issue. I think our culture has changed drastically as far as who is supposed to raise a child and what sacrifices parents must make to insure their child is successful. Bad parents are still bad parents even if they make a little more.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.10.24

    DB, I think you're deliberately underplaying the importance of reliable and sufficient income in helping parents create a stable family life for their kids, just to avoid admitting that spending more money on education and workers might be a good thing. Beyond just having to be out of the house more hours to earn enough to pay the bills, money problems cause all sorts of stress on parents. It's harder for them to be nice to their kids, to relax with their kids, and to provide their kids with other opportunities. Poverty is widely cited as a bigger factor in learning outcomes than pretty much anything else in or out of school. Sure, there are some meatheads who'd be rotten parents no matter how much money they had. But is it that hard to admit that it's easier to raise kids if one parent is making $40,000 than if two parents are working to make a total of $40,000?

  12. Joan Brown 2013.10.24

    When I was a kid on a low income farm, there were many nights while our mother was standing by the kitchen table using what we called a dish pan to wash the supper dishes, one or the other of us kids would be sitting on the other side of the table getting oral help with some of our school work. Sometimes it was spelling, counting, etc. Then there was one year when we had a little foster brother in the first grade that was having a hard time with his counting. Any way one night, he was sitting there counting, "one, four, six, two, ten" etc. Anyway, after listening to that for awhile, my mother had just taken a wooden spoon out of the water and was drying it, and she reached over with it and rapped his knuckles with it, after that he could count to 10 perfectly. Of course now that would be considered child abuse. Teachers also used to be able to spank a kid if needed.

  13. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.10.24

    Study after study has shown that poverty has by far the biggest negative impact on education. It's not even close. So while there are other factors which are important and do have a bearing on education, spanking, parental involvement, rural or urban, even the child's health, all pale in comparison to the affect of low income.

    There are reasons low income areas generally have lower levels of education and lower test scores. It's not lazy parents, lousy teachers, minority families, unmarried parents, etc., that do the most damage. Those circumstances are minor Compared to the Negative Influence of Low Income!

    All the things Cory has been saying about the damage caused by low income on education were not simply yanked out of thin air. They are borne out by Facts. Do a favor to yourself and the children of your community. Attack the number one issue rather than focusing on the periphery.

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.10.28

    Interesting map and stats on math scores by state, John! If I'm reading that data correctly, South Dakota is in the middle of the above average group, but we're behind everyone in our region but Nebraska. And up toward the top: Minnesota.

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