Gubernatorial candidates debate: In education, how much is enough?

The Argus Leader has a story this morning on the debate over education between Governor Mike Rounds and challenger Jack Billion, in the face of the adequacy study funded by a group of school districts, and the study commissioned by the legislature:
School funding has been a public policy debate since the days of school reorganization and the first education formula in the late 1960s, and the topic has been a fixture in each of the joint appearances by candidates during this year's governor's race between Republican Gov. Mike Rounds and Democratic challenger Jack Billion.

Rounds generally says the state is doing more than the law, or inflation, requires for K-12 schools, while Billion says South Dakota needs to put more money into schools just to match what neighboring states spend.

"In the last three years, inflation was about $349 per student," Rounds said during a recent forum. "We put in $126.33 more than that, making a total of $475.66 per student ongoing funding."

Maybe so, Billion said, but it isn't enough.


Avon Superintendent Tom Oster serves on the task force. He shares some of the frustration Voss expressed, although he said the task force dug deeply into how the 10-year-old formula works.

"We've looked at a lot of the features," Oster said. "But we were told from the state that we weren't going to look at money. I'm not sure what we'll accomplish."

The purpose of the task force isn't to look for an immediate fix for school funding but to try to see how the formula can be made to work effectively far into the future, said Rep. Phyllis Heineman, R-Sioux Falls.

"We should not look at what's going to work tomorrow or next year, but what's going to work in 10 years," she said.
Read it all here.


Anonymous said…
How many opt outs has Rounds presided over?

Why don't we have statewide pre-school programs for kids?

Why do we have the lowest paid teachers in the country?

Rounds has done nothing but neglect education. The additional funds he has added have not even kept up with inflation.

Why is it that Rounds guarantees state employees a big raise every year, but we can't match the raise for schools?

Why is it that Rounds stockpiles millions more dollars every year in reserves, but we can't afford to fund schools adequately?

Rounds loses this debate. If you care about education it's time to elect a governor who cares about education - Jack Billion!
Anonymous said…
If you give the schools more money they build more gyms. That is what is going on in Aberdeen.

We need more responsible school districts!
Brad S said…
Why is there always hand-wringing over the "lowest paid teachers in the Nation" stat? Surely, these folk realize that just about everyone else, even Federal workers, is in the same low-pay boat.

As far as the "adequacy" of education funding goes, keep in mind that the Denver-based consulting firm that has managed to get courts in KS to tell their Lege what to do uses metrics that have no real basis in actual costs.
Anonymous said…
Really? Jack Billion had the first post? I certainly hope he is reading the SDWC and will read this post.
Rounds has never "presided" over an opt-out because that is a local control issue for local people to decide.
We have the lowest paid teachers in the country because of, you guessed it,"local control" In public dollars per pupil, we rank 33, not 51 so tell it to the school boards.
The inflationary measurement the state uses is the same as many states and it is the most accurate indicator available. Of course you can find other ones that show higher inflation, but those measure different items that aren't relevant to school budgets.
Rounds has never, nor could he guarantee state employees a "big raise" every year. Go talk to a state employee for once and talk about their "big raise" they get every year. You are comparing apples and oranges because state employee raises are one area of a big budget. Raises to schools is for a big budget that funds many small areas.
If you have noticed, the budget reserve is going down every year, so that discredits your "stockpiling millions every year" argument.
Jack Billion loses the debate because he can't explain that he has spent the reserves several times and either wishes to bankrupt the state, or raise your takes sky high.
If I were Todd Epp, who seems like a nice guy, I would quit too because Billion's ideas aren't catching on so he has to resort to name calling and making things up.
Anonymous said…
Really? Marion Mike Rounds had the last post? Actually, state employees have received larger raises every year of the Rounds administration than have schools. Those below the midpoint have received on average 5.5% increases annually and above the midpoint have received an average 3%. You may take issue with those figures, but the bottom line is that school funding increases have not kept pace with state employee raises.

You are wrong about reserves. Look at the five major funds and you will find they went from %500,469,905 on 6/30/02 way up to $836,294,514 on 6/30/04. They have since climbed higer. That's a fact. You can verify numbers with Legislative Audit, but the stockpiling is beyond any dispute.

You accuse Billion of wanting to either bankrupt SD or raise taxes. We don't have to do either. Just keep the reserves from growing and we have plenty of funds without raising taxes or bankrupting anyone. It was Rounds who raised a number of taxes in 2003 unnecessarily in the face of rapid growth of reserve funds.

It was Rounds who grew state government by over 800 new employees. He's the liberal in the race: raising taxes, stockpiling taxpayer money, growing government. Even so, he's forcing schools to raise property taxes by underfunding education at the state level.

Nothing Rounds does makes any sense.
Anonymous said…
I said reserve, not trust funds and there is a huge difference. The sale of the state cement plant is why that overall number went up if you insist on lumping reserves with trust accounts. Do you have any idea how much interest money the state gets from these trust accounts? Would it make sense for your banker to tell you to sell your business even though it is making you money in lieu of having a large lump sum to spend? If you won $1000 dollars would you incorporate that into your annual budget? We are seeing interest returns of nearly twice inflation of which goes mostly to education.
You still don't get it that state employee salaries are a small part of a huge budget. The midpoint number isn't even relevant because that merely catches new workers up to job worth quicker and is applicable to a minority of workers.
Why don't you explain what taxes he raised instead of saying "a number of taxes"? He raised the cigarette tax and the wireless tax. Cig tax for health care expenses and wireless for equity between land line providers and also revenue for counties.
The fact that we have been taking from the reserves to balance the budget proves we haven't been adding to the reserves.
You also don't understand that Rounds added FTEs but that doesn't mean employees, it means the number of hours needed to complete a certain amount of work. The huge majority of these FTEs went to higher ed for research and development, grant programs, and master/PHD programs that use students and 1 FTE could mean 10 students working part time. Do you want SD to stay nearly last in this area?
When the state puts money in the education formula, it raises property taxes also. Do you understand that state money is your money just like property taxes are?

You don't make any sense!
Anonymous said…
What you fail to acknowledge, 6:27, is that Rounds keeps taking large capital improvement projects that are generally paid for over time out of the general fund (i.e. one-year money). By doing this, he creates the impression that he's borrowing from the reserves when he's just using accounting gimmicks.

Further, Rounds keeps growing the budget, the size of government, and raising taxes because he is a big-government liberal.

You want to mince words about FTE's versus employees, but there's not a shred of difference to the taxpayer. One FTE (full time equivalent) is equal to one 40 hour/week employee.

You are also wrong with your claim that the cement plant accounts for the increase I spoke of from 2002 - present in the 5 major funds. The cement plant money came in in 2001.

From 2002 to 2004, the education enhancement trust fund increased from $85,421,811 to $347,435,491. This is the tobacco settlement. But it goes back to my original point. While Rounds starves education and forces everybody to opt out because he won't even increase funding to match inflation, he is stockpiling money intended for education.

What good is the money if the king sits on it while everybody suffers? Rounds is not serious about fixing the education problem. It takes nothing more than leadership. Something Rounds is sorely lacking.
Anonymous said…
Anon 8:45
You said everything I wanted to say but I'm not that smart. All I can do is look at and see that the median income in Pierre is 47K. How does your city compare?
Anonymous said…
OK, I'm not from either of the two campaigns, like you two obviously are, but I'd have to say that it doesn't take an idiot to see who's winning this debate. The person from the Billion campaign, whom I'm guessing is no longer Epp, is tripping over himself with logical fallacies, while the person from the Rounds campaign simply corrects and explains Rounds' position.

Bravo, Rounds campaigner, when they go negative and lie, continue to point out the fallacy and stay positive.

A few questions to add to the argument:
Wasn't the addition of FTEs actually a result of an addition in federal grants to pay for those FTEs? I guess if Rounds got us more state workers without raising state taxes, I would like that. Also, I think a large number of those FTEs were created in education. Of course most of these were in higher education, not preschool, so touche.

How do you believe the adequacy study when you look at the source of the study and then look at the success of our schools? If teachers aren't getting paid enough, why aren't they moving to Arizona? It's supply and demand. The quality of life here is a cost that people take into account when they decide to settle here. You would have to pay me more to live somewhere else, too. So are we not spending enough to attract quality teachers? I would like to see a stat that shows the effect our last place salaries have on education in this state. Also, didn't a bunch of school districts try to sue the state when Janklow was Governor? How is this any different? What happened to the double jeopardy clause? (sorry, that was an attempt at humor)

Let's get real. If education needs more money, people will have to pay more taxes. If you want an income tax, just say so. The current reserves are being used wisely, and I think most people would agree with that. Don't you think there is a good reason that Rounds doesn't want to spend any more of the reserves than we are, other than the fact that he just wants to sit on it like a greedy king (straw man).

Billion campaigner: I'm not a fan of the negativity or the rhetoric.
Rounds campaigner: Where can I get a t-shirt?
Anonymous said…
I forgot to say that the Legislature and the Governor must get a percentage every year of the money that is stashed away in reserves and trust funds; that has to be why they do that. Your weak argument about capital improvemnent projects doesn't make any sense. What does Rounds have to gain by doing that? If you say he is adding to the reserves yet taking from reserves to pay for capital projects, how does that work?

Here are some numbers for thought:
SD State Government Departments last year grew 1.182 million in budget which is less than 2% of the growth. The rest came from Medicare, State Hospital, TANF, Law Enforcement, and Education.

SD State Employee Pay National Ranking-46th

SD National Tax Burden Ranking-46th

Small Business Survival Climate Ranking- 1st in the nation

The disposable income of a SD teacher (who ranks 51) is within a few dollars of a California teacher (who ranks 3rd) or over 24 thousand dollars a year more.

My original point is that instead of spending the principle from the trust funds to the point of emptying them out, let's take the interest, which is a HUGE amount of money and fund education without destroying the revenue generator. What will you do when the money is gone?
What is your indicator of inflation? As I stated in a previous post, the indicator the state uses is the most accurate reflection of school costs and is the national standard. The state has provided a fairly moderate amount above that number. The problem is most of our schools are shrinking, not inflation. I should mention that the state provides FREE distance ed to small schools which is a number that isn't in the formula.
Clearly you would like to leave the FTE a mystery to some people so that you can get away with making wild statements. The taxpayer is smarter than you give them credit for and they do understand the difference.

** Statistics taken from The Taxpayer Network and SD BFM Website
Anonymous said…
11:02, you say if education needs more money taxpayers will have to pay higher taxes. Wrong. Taxpayers are already paying higher taxes thanks to Rounds and his 2/3 Republican mojority.

But funding education at a level adequate to avoid everybody opting out and raising taxes - which Rounds doesn't seem to mind - all we have to do is turn to our education enhancement fund, which sits at over $347 million as opposed to $85 million just 4 years ago. The fund is for education!

Now 9:41 has set up a straw man to knock down by suggesting that someone wants to empty the education trust fund. Nobody wants to empty the fund, and Billion has simply made a reasonable suggestion to use a bit more of the fund's interest every year to the tune of about $20 million more a year (estimate) to fund education.

We have never had a discussion in SD about how much is a good number to leave in reserves. 8 years ago we got by vith virtually no reserves. Why do we need $1 billion now while schools suffer and taxes go up?

Here's another way to look at it. The investment Council does an excellent job of investing our money and getting a good return. But the vast majority of the money is invested out of state - creating jobs elsewhere. If we took a bit more of the education enhancement trust fund every year and gave it to schools, we would give up the return on investing that money. However, the money would actually be spent in South Dakota creating a multiplier effect as the money is put into our economy. It would be used for wages and to purchase goods and services locally, creating additional jobs, prosperity and tax revenue. Bringing that money into our state economy would also keep property taxes low by helping schools avoid opt outs.

All it takes is the political will to solve a school funding problem and to invest in SD. We have the money. The money will not simply be spent - it will be invested in South Dakota. Our governor just doesn't have the vision or the leadership to do it.

By the way, how did the governor's brother Tom Rounds get the no-bid exclusive license to sell t-shirts at the Vietnam veterans event last weekend? Things only happen in SD if there's something in it for Rounds!
Anonymous said…
Where's the answer to that last question? That really shut up the Rounds apologists, didn't it?

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