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South Dakota Third in Federal Support for K-12, Last in State Funding

Last updated on 2015.02.23

Last week we discussed South Dakota's red-state moocherism in the form of its third-place rank for reliance on federal support for its state budget.

In further refutation of Governor Dennis Daugaard's oft-proclaimed commitment to self-reliance (also here, here, and here), NPN finds that we are also third-worst at funding our own education system. According to newly released Census data on public education financing, Uncle Sam provides 16.4% South Dakota's K-12 spending.

Remember, this reliance on Uncle Sam comes in a state where we don't take Medicaid expansion money because we don't trust the federal government to sustain its spending levels.

Only Mississippi and Louisiana get a greater portion of their K-12 budget from the feds. Nationwide, the feds provide 10.0% of K-12 funding.

Alas, the savings from the federal largesse don't trickle down to local school districts; they all accrue to Pierre. Nationally, state and local funding for K-12 education is about an even split, 45.5% to 44.5%. In South Dakota, the state provides 30.5%, while locals provide 53.1%. No state provides less funding as percentage of total K-12 spending than South Dakota.

Here's the data for South Dakota and its neighbors:

K-12 education funding from federal, state, and local sources, 2012
Fed % State % Local %
Iowa 8.5 44.4 47.1
Minnesota 7.0 63.1 29.9
Montana 13.3 47.2 39.5
Nebraska 9.9 31.6 58.5
North Dakota 12.3 50.5 37.3
South Dakota 16.4 30.5 53.1
Wyoming 8.7 51.3 40.0
Source: Mark Dixon, "Public Education Finances: 2012," 2012 Census of Governments, U.S. Census Bureau, May 2014

Our K-12 lean on the federal crutch is not new; it is chronic South Dakota irresponsiblity, reported for years on this blog, from Republican governors and state legislators who subsidize their low-tax promises by taking money hand over fist from an ever-forgiving Uncle Sam and the generous liberals in other states who can't turn their backs on the children we hold hostage.

Hmmm... imagine what would happen if liberal neighbors in Minnesota, Iowa, and Wyoming(!) got tired of giving in to our demands. They might decide to save money by saving the hostages. They're paying for our students' learning anyway; why not just recruit their families to move out and come to Marshall and Minneapolis, Hawarden and Des Moines, Cody and Cheyenne, where they'll find happier, better-paid teachers and lower local school district tax burdens.

We are an independent lot who believe in self-reliance, perseverance, and determination.... South Dakotans are also some of the most compassionate and generous people you will ever meet [Governor Dennis Daugaard, explaining to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius why South Dakota has chosen not to expand Medicaid, letter, 2014.01.30].


  1. Roger Cornelius 2014.05.25

    And if Mike Rounds gets his way in eliminating the Dept of Education, that 16.4% of federal funding for K-12 education funding will dwindle to a big fat zero.

    Does anyone believe that a state Republican administration will make up that 16.4%?

  2. Roger Cornelius 2014.05.25

    And Cory, when the Republicans fail to restore that federal loss in funding, where do you suppose the first cuts will be?

  3. Shirley Harrington-Moore 2014.05.25

    Dumb people are easily controlled. Why else would the republicans cut education?

  4. Michael B 2014.05.25

    Was it not during the Rounds administration that funding for alternative high schools was stripped out of the budget?

    I know of several now successful adults that made it through thanks to AIM HIGH in Madison. For me this is far more important than the EB-5 scandal.

    I can't wait to ask our former governor about this.

  5. grudznick 2014.05.25

    We have good kids with good scores. Great outcomes. Why all the whining about teacher pay? I say raise custodian pay.

  6. Michael B 2014.05.26


    Simple shit short-sighted stupidity.

  7. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.05.26

    Using your logic, grudz, why raise custodian pay? We have clean schools and the floors are all polished and the trash is all emptied each day.

  8. JeniW 2014.05.26

    During the past few years I have said that teacher's pay will not increase as long as the test scores remain at or about the same level as they have been. After all, why pay more if can get the same thing with less cost?

  9. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.05.26

    Using your logic, Jeni, groceries should cost less, because the food doesn't taste as good as it used to. Legislators and all elected officials should be making less because the government that we get now is so ineffectual and improves nothing.

  10. JeniW 2014.05.26

    First thing first, I was being sarcastic. I apologize for not making that clear.

    The reality is, IMO, the legislators and the governor are not going to do anything to increase teacher's wages/benefits, or improve educational standards as long as the test scores remain relatively high.

    As for elected officials' wages, as far as I know, there are not any measurement tools to determine effectiveness. Right now the only method of determining the effectiveness of elected officials is by opinions. Opinions are subjective, and there is a very wide range of opinions. One person will say that Rounds was a wonderful governor and will make a great legislator, then there is me who will say just the opposite. Which one of us is correct?

    There are no tests to measure the effectiveness of elected officials as there are for measuring the effectiveness of teachers.

    Even the electing, or re-electing of elected officials is not a measurement of effectiveness in dealing with the issues at hand. The electing/re-electing of people is only a measurement of the effectiveness of the campaign.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.26

    Jeni, if all parents want from schools is higher test scores, they are taking a woefully narrow view of the benefits schools provide. They are also missing the fact that sometimes conditions change and it takes more inputs to get the same outputs.

    And in South Dakota, they miss the fact that we've been paying teachers an immorally low wage all along.

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.26

    Thank you, JeniW, for that clarification. We all need to do a btter job of changing our legislators' perception of reality, to make them understand there's much more to education than test scores. Getting rid of those standardized tests might help rectify that perception.

  13. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.05.26

    Jeni, I did not vote for Bill Janklow the first two times that he ran for Governor. But I did the last two. Why? Because I saw how effective his economic development, which did not cost the State of SD anything in tax dollars, was in his bringing the banking industry to South Dakota. That was at a time when John Morrell was about to pull out of Sioux Falls, had broken the union and Sioux Falls and SD needed something to spur the economy, which Citibank and other banks coming here have. It was also before the expansion of the healthcare industry, so if the banks had not come, South Dakota's economy would not just have wilted, it would have died.

    On the flip side, Mike Rounds as I have pointed out on this blog and in a Letter to the Editor, fathered so many failed economic development programs that did cost the taxpayers a lot of money, and at the same time failed and cost a lot more than money. So yes there are measurables for politicians, but we as citizens have to pay attention to know what those measurables are and how the person that we support or don't support measure up to know whether they deserve our continued support.

  14. JeniW 2014.05.26

    Corey, I don't know that parents have much say about the standardized tests or teachers' wages. I am guessing that most parents value what their children are being taught and by whom, but they do not have any control of what the legislators and/or governor does (or does not do.)

    All I am saying is that, IMO, the legislators and the governor are not going to increase teachers' pay as long as the test scores on the standardize test remain relatively high.

    I hope that I will be proven wrong. A wide variety of opportunities need to be provided to students so that they can learn new skills, develop their talents and skills, and be prepared to be future employees.

  15. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.05.26

    Well Jeni, Then you missed the conversation between Michael and Cory previously on this blog this morning about Mike Rounds ending AIM highschool aid, which is one more reason that Mike Rounds should not be our US Senator.

  16. Les 2014.05.26

    All parents want is someone to care for and take the children from their lives for the day. You want change in our ed systems? Start with the parents.

  17. JeniW 2014.05.26

    Lanny, you proved one of my points. Parents have no control of what the Governor or legislators do, or not do.

    Rounds ended AIM, apparently the legislators did not object to that, and Gov. Daugaard, as far as I know, has not put AIM back into place.

    My point has been, and until I am proven wrong, is that the governor and legislators are not going to increase teachers' pay, or be concerned about educational standards as long as the standardized test scores remain relatively high.

    I agree that if parents want better educational opportunities for their children, they need to be the ones to expect more and better from the school boards, school districts, legislators and the governor.

    BTW, I think Rounds sucked as a governor, and would be performance poor if he is elected as Senator.

  18. Michael B 2014.05.26

    If I ever get the chance (and you can count on that) I will ask the question why we can pour money down a rat hole (the beef packing plant in Aberdeen) but we cannot fund alternative schools for struggling high school students.

  19. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.05.26

    JeniW, good comments. You have a valid, uncomplicated point and you are sticking to it, despite attempts to make your point into something bigger than it is.


  20. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.05.26

    It's easy to get distracted, or hear something different when there is only the typed word for evidence. I can certainly do so.

    I think JenuW is right. Not enough parents will be willing to raise cain while test scores remain relatively high. It's not the parents of current students who are satisfied, for the most part. SD's elderly population is more likely to be the culprit. Those low, fixed income people have valid concerns for their well being. Plus, they have less exposure to school systems . They see high test scores and assume that means everything is good enough.

  21. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.05.26

    Deb, You are right. Jeni does have good comments. But there is a second part of that as a citizen. It is our responsibility to be informed, which a good share of people (probably not those on these blogs) are not. Then it is our responsibility to act on that information, in other words if you don't think that education funding is enough, or that the administrators are getting too much of it, or that they are building too many football and baksetball places to play and not spending enough on paying teachers then doggone it tell your legislators and school board members.

    Do you think I don't know what it is to piss up a rope or into the wind? I do. I have been after Presidents, Senators, Representatives etc to stop the war madness that our country has been on, for quite a few years and to what effect? None, that's right. Does that give me the right to quit trying? Not on my last heartbeat, if that is what I believe.

  22. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.05.26

    I'm 72 Deb, I went to and spoke at a school board meeting last month. My grandkids are in Minneapolis, so it was out of concern for the kids in SF.

  23. Douglas Wiken 2014.05.26

    I suspect many parents hesitate to criticize school teachers or administrators or even make suggestions because the fear retribution against their children by vindictive, petty teachers.

Comments are closed.