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South Dakota Ranks Low on K-12 Finance and Achievement

Chuck Clement reports that South Dakota gets a C-minus for K-12 education quality. Education Week remains unimpressed with our public school policies and performance, ranking us 40th in the nation. Our 69.6 on their hundred-point scale isn't much better than the 69.3 we got two years ago.

Clement reports that South Dakota loses big points in school finance:

The state's K-12 system received a D-plus and a rank of 42 in the school finance grading, falling below the average state grade of C.

When the researchers studied K-12 education spending in 2012, they found that South Dakota spent in adjusted per-pupil expenditures $10,740, compared to $11,740 as the national average, giving the state a 31 ranking. However, the center's research also determined that South Dakota only had about 11 percent of its K-12 students in school districts with per-pupil spending at or higher than the national average, making the state's ranking 37 in that category.

South Dakota was ranked 48th in state expenditures on K-12 schooling as a percent of state taxable resources with South Dakota at 2.5 percent and the national average at 3.4 percent [Chuck Clement, "South Dakota's K-12 System Receives C-Minus," Madison Daily Leader, 2015.01.09].

But hey, we're still getting more bang for our buck, right?

The state received a D and a rank of 43 in K-12 achievement, falling below the average state grade of C-minus.

In the area of achievement, South Dakota received its lowest rankings (from 46 to 50) in achievement gains from 4th- and 8th-graders' scores on the National Assessment of Educational Process exams taken from 2003 to 2013. The researchers studied the scale-score changes in the NAEP results. [Clement, 2015.01.09].

Uh oh, Legislature. Sounds like you'd better focus on something other than subjecting teachers to the Pierre Inquisition.


  1. Wayne B. 2015.01.13

    You know, I had a request to explore a school district to see about its performance - I got keyed onto

    One of the nifty things I learned about the particular district is this:

    288 total students
    43 total staff.
    27 of those were teachers
    It had an annual surplus of roughly $600k

    If we wanted to take $270k and give that to teachers, even after payroll expenses (SSI, FICA, Etc.), we'd be talking $6,000 more take home pay per teacher.

    Maybe... just maybe... it isn't all about how much the state gives. Maybe we should look critically at school district rainy day funds.

  2. grudznick 2015.01.13

    Mr. B, you seem a sensible sort.

  3. jerry 2015.01.13

    I am not sure why the politicos want to destroy public education, but one thing is for certain, they are busy at it. The Koch brothers continue to be a real issue with public schools and it seems they will stop at nothing to bring their way to the classroom. That makes me wonder if they are already here in South Dakota dealing the dirty with our elected officials.

    We have already compromised our property to this bunch, and it is not enough.

  4. SuperSweet 2015.01.13

    Wayne, I looked up a SD school district with an enrollment of 228 and found a general fund budget of 2.5M. $600K = about three months of expenditures. In my opinion SD school boards don't trust what the legislature and/or governor might do (like cutting funding like they did recently) and want to keep healthy fund balances. The district I looked at was facing the need for an opt out. They want that fund balance there should the election fail and 3 months of operating funds is not all that comforting should that happen. The fund balance represents one time money and if you put it into recurring expenses you can't sustain the spending into the future.

    One of the options the school board gives the electorate when these opt out discussions come up is to see if they can reorganize with an adjacent school district. This is an undesirable choice for the electorate in most school districts as evidenced by the low number of reorganizations that take place.

  5. SuperSweet 2015.01.13

    I stand corrected. $600K = 4 months.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.14

    Thanks for the administrative perspective, Super!

    Jerry, I hate to get conspiratorial, but if the Koch/ALEC axis wants public education to collapse, then South Dakota's chronic neglect would be the perfect way to make that happen.

  7. Wayne B. 2015.01.14

    I can understand the rationale, SuperSweet... funny how the lack of trust permeates everything, apparently.

    But that lack of trust runs both ways. I don't trust school districts to actually raise teacher pay if the state increased its per student allocation. I quite imagine more bells & whistles will be purchased (iPads for everyone, anyone?).

    The point of my discovery is there are plenty of schools running with healthy margins - 4 months cash on hand is better than most non-profit hospitals.

    Given your expertise, can you remind me what limitations are put on school districts' rainy day funds? I assume these school districts cannot keep socking away funds indefinitely. If they can, then they can afford to run on tighter margins; what's the point of a taxpayer-funded rainy day fund that never gets tapped?

    Keep in mind, my position isn't "schools have oodles of cash laying around so the state doesn't need to do anything." I want us to critically examine the whole system and ask where changes need to be made.

  8. jerry 2015.01.14

    I see this happening with the Koch brothers. You can go to MIT and see their names plastered on some big prominent buildings in that place. They sponsor big and they sponsor small. They have had a presence here outright during the minimum wage vote as well as their involvement with ALEC of which many of our dumbass legislators are involved in. It would be hard to not see that they pull the strings with most in Pierre and the bozoheads we have sent to Washington.

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