Mike Buckingham and Eric Abrahamson on School Consolidation

The Rapid City Journal was reporting today on District 33 Republican State Rep Mike Buckingham, and Democratic Lt. Gov Candidate Eric Abrahamson and their comments for the group Democracy in Action regarding school consolidation in South Dakota:
The South Dakota Legislature is doing a good job of funding schools in the state, but per-student funding is being diluted because it is spread across too many small, inefficient school districts that resist consolidation, said State Rep. Mike Buckingham, a former Rapid City school board member. The Republican from District 33 serves on the House Education Committee and spoke Saturday at a forum, sponsored by Democracy in Action, alongside Eric Abrahamson, a member of the Rapid City School Board and the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.

Buckingham said the inefficient schools operate at the expense of taxpayers and students in other, more cost-efficient districts.

About 75 people gathered in a lunchroom at Dakota Middle School for the town-hall discussion on the future of educational funding in South Dakota while members of Rapid City High School’s Class of 1956 wandered the halls of their old school building on a 50th class reunion tour.

Buckingham and Abrahamson answered four questions about school funding posed by DIA moderator Judee Oldham and then took questions from the audience.

Abrahamson and Buckingham agreed that consolidation is the wave of the future and that innovative approaches to education — such as distance learning centers, electronic classrooms and sharing services among districts — will be essential to educational improvements in the state.
Read it all here in the Rapid City Journal.


Nicholas Nemec said…
Buckingham's argument that the small schools are costing to much money and need to be closed is wrong. Those kids have to be educated somewhere and closing schools will not save any overall money.

One thing is certain, if small rural schools are closed children will spend more time each day riding the bus to get to school.

Killing the small schools isn't the answer to school funding problems. Let the locals decide when the local school needs to close. They will make the right decision. If a school board refuses to close a too small school the patrons will begin to vote with their feet and open enroll into other districts. State $$$$ follow the kid.
Anonymous said…
I can see why Eric Abrahamson is a canidate for Lt Gov. Eric made a fool of Buckingham.

Eric talked about how to fix the problems facing our schools, while all Buckingham could do was talk about proud he was of his kid that went to private schools.
Anonymous said…
I'm surprised Buckingham is so concerned about afforable education now - his family operates for-profit National American and I've heard him complain that public higher education is too affordable!
Anonymous said…
Mr. Nemec

Small schools are killiing us. Between 1999 and 2004, there was a decrease of over 8000 students Statewide. Despite this fact, the number of teachers remained virtually the same ( 6 less in 2004 than in 1999). If you want efficiency, that has to be unacceptable. The average size district in this State is less than 800 students, we lost the equivalent of 10 school districts and we only reduced 6 teachers !!

And by the way, the number of "ghosts" (students the small school factor pays for, that dont exist) actually increased by 549 despite loosing 8000 students as well !! that is 2.2 million more dollars, for students that dont exist !! This is the small schools "not killing us" ?

If Schools are running out of money, that could be the reason. During this time of "not enough money" class sizes actually -DECREASED- Statewide by about 6 percent. In contrast, the class size in Rapid City -INCREASED- by 11 percent during this same time. While The property taxes for K-12 education in Rapid City are growing way faster than the State average, our kids here are getting less and less, and the Kids from small schools are getting more and more.

The small school factor is as un-constitutional as the 150 percent rule is for property taxes. But dont worry, most elected offiials and voters in Rapid City dont care so keep stickin it to'em
Anonymous said…
I am glad Mike had the guts to appear before this leftist (sorry, "progressive") organization, which is a shill for Abrahamson.
Anonymous said…
anon 11:59

Not sure Buckingham has any guts left. By what I heard, Abrahamson kick the crap of him during the debate.
Anonymous said…
Mike Buckingham can't even get a degree from the college his family ownes.

What does that tell you about his intellect.

I has clear that Buckingham was out classed by Abrahamson, but the far right of the Repubs still have to come to the defense of thier own.
Anonymous said…
"Buckingham's argument that the small schools are costing to much money and need to be closed is wrong."

"Not sure Buckingham has any guts left. By what I heard, Abrahamson kick the crap of him during the debate."

"Mike Buckingham can't even get a degree from the college his family ownes.

What does that tell you about his intellect.

I has clear that Buckingham was out classed by Abrahamson, but the far right of the Repubs still have to come to the defense of thier own."

Run these missives through spelling and grammar check and you'll get a pretty good idea of the quality of education these folks received in the public school system. And they have the audacity to denigrate Buckingham's intellect?

Sorry boys, you lost this battle of wits when you came unarmed. Is this an example of the education we can expect for our children if we put the Democrats in charge?
Anonymous said…
4:00 pm,

Who do you suppose educated the individuals whose grammer you are critiquing? Here is a clue; it wasn't Democrats. It has been 30 plus years since they have had much say in education standards in this State. Thanks for pointing out that perhaps we need much improvement in the area of education. I am finished posting so I guess you should get out your red pen.
Anonymous said…
On the KOTA web site, Buckingham is credited with saying The legislature has increased Education funding by 339 million dollars in the last 12 years.

That is not true, not even close. Thats a regurgitated lie from the days of Janklow.
Rich Engels said…
The kids should be our main concern. They need to receive a quality education regardless of what school they attend.

When schools get to the point where they are unable or unwilling to offer kids the curriculum needed to qualify for a South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship, then they need to consolodate.

It's up to schools to determine whether to offer that curriculum or not, using internet or video classes if they need to. But kids should not be denied the option of having rigorous, college preparatory coursework just because they live in a remote area of the state.

We also need to recognize that not all kids will go to college. High schools everywhere need to work with our technical institutes to lay the groundwork for kids headed into technical careers. One again, internet or video classes can be utilized.

I agree with Nick Nemec that local districts can decide when to consolidate, but the State should ensure that all kids are able to have the rigorous curriculum that prepares them for either college or technical school.
Anonymous said…
It would be interesting to see how the number of non-teaching positions in our school systems has changed over the years. My guess is that they have gone way up.
Anonymous said…
anon 9:07

Not sure about all non teaching positions, but, Administrative positions have decreased by 8 percent (52 FTE) between 99 and 04. Their salaries are up 20 percent for same period. Teaching positions have decreased by .07 percent (6 FTE) during same period with a 17 percent increase in salaries.
Anonymous said…
Who's teaching the kids? It isn't Democrats? Actually, the majority of teachers are Dems.
This whole argument of Buckingham's and others from the big cities is a bunch of BS. Efficiency has little to do with size, and it's not the little schools adding teaching positions, it's the big ones.
Seems to me they're just jealous and greedy and want a bigger piece of the pie for their own school district, so maybe their own property taxes will go down.
Nicholas Nemec said…
In a perfect world all districts would have 800 K-12 students. But we don't live in a perfect world.

In my district every kid that rides the bus rides for over 1 1/2 hours each day. Consolidation with the nearest district of more than 800 (Pierre) would mean those same kids would be on the bus at least 3 1/2 hours a day.

Anon 11:13 until you or someone else challenges the small school factor in court it will be assumed to be constitutional.

The job of the state is to insure that schools prepare students for success in college or vocational school. I have yet to see any evidence that the small schools aren't doing that.
Anonymous said…
anon 1257

Rapid city reduced teaching positions by over 14 percent (132) between 99-04

For the whole State to only be down 6, means, there are 126 new positons somewhere else.

What large schools added teachers ? or are you just using words without knowledge ?
Anonymous said…
The problem is the people of the community believe that the school is the heart and soul of the town. If they abandon their school, they abandon their town so they hang on too long. The state does ensure that all schools can provide rigorous courses to be eligible for the opportunity scholarship, but many are provided through distance ed. We all know that isn't preferable to human contact but it still works well. No policy maker is calling for 800+ kids per school. It's the schools with less than 200 that are within viewing distance of each other that need to consolidate.
Anonymous said…
From RCJ:

"He [Abrahamson] suggested the state’s high incarceration rates and prison costs could be reduced to find more money for education. The issue of under- assessed property in the state also should be addressed."

We need criminals behind bars and good schools, not one or the other.

So the Dem candidate says we should stop putting people who break the law in jail so we can spend more on education.

That's stupid, or even worse he probably wants to decrminalize certain behavior so that he doesn't look soft on crime, which he is.

What we need are school boards that will have the balls to raise taxes if they think we need more money for our schools.

The South Dakota Democratic Gubentorial Ticket solution to educating children and keeping them safe is unnaceptable.
brian aust said…
I don't know about anyone else, but, I think the fact that the small school factor makes up less than 3 percent of all state dollars to education is a little less-than-compelling in the argument that small schools are killing the state.

Also, remember... schools are asked to do alot more than they used to be. I think I read a commenter earlier in the year (I think on this blog) say that if you ask someone to shovel the driveway, it's not fair to give them a spoon. I thought that was funny.
Anonymous said…
Many of our schools are getting smaller and our funding formula is based on the number of kids enrolled.
The problem is the legislature does give more money every year per child, but for those schools that lose a certain threshold of kids, they actually get less money than the year previous. You can't cut very much when there is a gradual decrease every year of kids. Eventually what happens is 20 teachers who were specialized in their subject area gets cut to 15 and are forced to teach subjects they know little about. No matter how you try to make exceptions, the generalization is that is bad for kids.
Until we can come up with a better way than basing funding on enrollment, the only options are inefficiency or consolidation.
Anonymous said…
Anon 1:29:

While those may be the only options under your scenario, we are not left in between a rock and a hard place.

The community has to determine if they want to fund education, regardless of state tax dollars.

Communities have the ability to raise revenue by opting out. Dont poo-poo the opt out option. When communities are given compelling reasons for raising thier taxes they will do it.

Teachers, administrators, school boards and the education industry in this state need to give communities a credible and sound reason for opting out.

Sometimes this means the education industry has to give a little to get more money. Like performance based promotion pay and the like.

South Dakotans are very responsive to problems, both good and bad. Give the people a reason to raise their taxes and they will.

Up until this point the education industry in SD has spent more time whining in the press about accountability standards under No child left behind. Meanwhile, a majority of SD citizens, I presume, support these types of accountability measures.

My point is that in many ways the education industry that is charged with helping kids is probably hurting them in some ways by alienating voters, i.e. the SDEA and EPIC always gravitating towards Democrats and liberals.

The SDEA didn't even endorse Republicans in districts where there were no D's running. That is a sin in the polication action group community. Ex. even the NRA endorsed Herseth in her race against Dedrich.

Now the issue of rural schools won't be solved by the individual school district, but those individual districts are not left helpless. They have the power to consolidate and in many places in this state it would NOT result in a 1 hour long bus drive, but I do conceed that in several it would. My second point is that school districts have some tools to make things better and need to start using them.

As to those towns that choose not to consolidate because they don't want to lose the school: it would be interesting to look at the statistics regarding those students and what universities/tech schools they go to and stats concerning remedial college courses. I would also like to see placement info regarding those students to determine if schools that should consolidate are "hurting" their students.

Such information could be quite powerful in demonstrating to local communities whether they are "holding" their children back or not.
Anonymous said…
Mr Aust;

Are you saying the small school factor is less than 3% of general fund State aid dollars to k-12 ?

I noticed you said "all State dollars to education"

If you did lump other things in there. I would like to know what percentage of the General State aid to k-12 general funds we are talking about. I suspect it is way more than 3%.
nonnie said…
Whoa,just wait a minute, all of you who say that the locals can just ante up more for education thru opt outs (translated, increased taxes paid by property owners). Just who do you think is already paying the majority of the cost of public education? Yep, the property owners! Surprise? Probably to some. Business owners and farmers/ranchers pay the most of course, not necessarily because they have the highest net worth of the local taxpayers, but just because they have to own (many times in conjunction with the bank) property in order to make their living. People with a house in town pay much less and then wonder why anyone could possibly object to an opt out??? Get real. The burden for public education needs to be spread evenly and a rise in property taxes does NOT do this.

The formulua isn't working and needs to be addressed. The small school factor is unfair and should also be eliminated. Administrative costs are exorbitant and districts should be consolidated at least administratively. Sioux Falls does it with one supt and many schools; why can't the rest of SD? I agree that the legislature and the governor need to SERIOUSLY address this issue before people get fed up with rising property taxes and threaten to revolt again. Remember that??

If you who pay little into the local taxes to support education want to pay more, feel free. Those of us who pay thousands a year already feel we are doing our share and more!
Anonymous said…
The small school factor dishes out about 8 million in state dollars to small schools. That's a little under 3% of the total K-12 state aid.

Opt-outs aren't the answer. Funding needs to be consistent. It can't sunset after five years. Besides, the state only contributes about 35% of all K-12 education expenditures, but they have 100% say over which districts are effective and which ones aren't. It's time for the state to think about how they are setting up districts to succeed.

Also, I think it would be interesting to consider funding in terms of outcomes for smaller schools. Like, for instance, if you could compare state funding per student graduated, small schools would look pretty attractive.

The Department of Education keeps a list of distinguished schools - the best schools in the state. What's the average enrollment? You won't find one large school on that list.

In any event, the small school factor wouldn't even matter if funding was at a sufficient level. There aren't alot of states that have small school factors, but, then again, every other state puts more state dollars into education than South Dakota does.
Anonymous said…
The small school factor may only be three percent of the whole. It is a huge increase in money to the districts that receive it. Big Stone city for example Has like 80 students but receives money for 160 or so ( im rounding) thats a 100 percent more money.
Anonymous said…
Sure... that's true. But, why be so stubborn to penalize the rest of the state because some schools get a tiny bit more money - so tiny that it doesn't really matter in the scheme of things.

I mean... if we wanted to free up money, why not slash from of state government's discretionary spending? Why is it that they clamor for merit pay for teachers, but approve across the board raises for state employees? Why do our teachers get paid 51st in the nation, and our state workers 41st?

I wonder why no one thinks about that?
Anonymous said…
anon 929

I guess if fairness is a "penalty" then thats what I want. 8 million dollars is not a "tiny bit" of money to me.

I would like for the kids of my city to have the same opportunities as the other kids in this State. We have 13 thousand kids and 2, just 2 football teams and all other sports for that matter. If Rapid City was like the average district we would have 18 different teams for each sport, what does that cost ? it cost the same as what the average district, in this state, is spending.

I hope all you folks from these little districts appreciate your small class sizes and numerous extra-cirricular activities and opportunities for, your children, that are being paid for by the out of control tax increases in Rapid City.

The 2 largest High Schools in this State are in Rapid City and neither one has a Sports field of its own, just practice fields with no seating or bleachers. They Share a stadium with the School of Mines. In contrast, Douglas School District(2,600 KIDS OR SO), 10 miles away, has its own field with olympic regulation track surface no less, complete with fancy Daktronic timing equipment for the track, lol

oh well, I guess thats just a "tiny bit o money"

If its such a small amount of money, then we will take it,,THANKS
Anonymous said…
Just saying it's a small percentage. It's a small percentage that means alot to the KIDS in those districts. I guess I am just a kids-first person.

The kids get lost in the politics. It's not the kids that hold back consoldiation - its the residents of those small towns. It's the people in those areas.

And, I don't think we should penalize kids because of the politics involved wanting to close small schools.

Consolidation is happening... maybe not as quick as some would like, but it is going on.

Where do you stop? Why do we need so many cities in South Dakota? Why do we need so many counties? Why don't we balance out the population of the counties so they are all about the size of Coddington County. Then our counties would be more efficient.

But, then again... I mean, South Dakota's state government is terribly inefficient. Perhaps, if we can't fund education properly, we need to join up with North Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska. I mean, California has alot more people than we do... maybe all us small little states need to realize that if we want to make the most efficient use of our tax dollars, we need to have a population the size of Illinois.

I don't know. I think some people in South Dakota wouldn't like that. But, we have to be leaders - we have to tell them how much better life would be if we just made decisions for them.
Anonymous said…
Anon 1:57:

We have to deal with reality. The opt-out provision usually fails and school boards know that. There have been many times when schools have cut teachers, programs, and classes before even trying to opt-out and it still failed! There is nothing romantic about saying we need more money to pay the utility bills or give a decent raise to our teachers. People are already in an uproar about their property taxes going up so much and opt-outs are very unpopular. Of course we can sit here and say these communities need to pony up if they want their school, but they don't, and the kids suffer because of it.
When you say "When communities are given compelling reasons for raising thier taxes they will do it" the only compelling reason is nothing short of a disaster. The school could say we want to raise our test scores by 25% with a new program and it will cost more than we can afford right now, I would guarantee you that wouldn't mean diddly to the voters.
Anonymous said…
anon 1226:

The property taxes for most School districts, for the general fund that is, is decreasing.

Of 169 School districts, only 32 have had an increase for the general fund, in fact the State average is a -2.28%, thats a minus 2.28% average (99-04)

If voters are upset about taxes increasing, it is not the Schools fault. Virtually all the tax increases are for the cities, Counties, capital outlay and pension fund. The taxes that actually RUN the Schools is decreasing.
Anonymous said…
Yet, on the average, only 35% of school district expenditures are from state dollars - which, by the way, is nearly last in the nation.

And, on the average, about 51% of school district expenditures are from local sources - which, by the way, is 11th in the nation.

Oh. And, the amount of funding per student that the state provides in South Dakota is also last in the nation - last by a long shot, by almost $500 per kid. That's not per pupil spending... thats STATE spending per pupil. South Dakota is dead last.

Yet... during the current administration, state government (minus medicaid) has grown at 19% - while school districts have grown at 3.5 percent.

So... diverting the conversation on whether the state is doing all its can to fund districts by talking about the small school factor seems a bit inappropriate.

Clearly the state should, and can, do more.
Anonymous said…
Diverting ??

The post is/was about small inefficient schools right ??

Small school factor is hardly a diversion
Anonymous said…
ANON 3:53

You have clearly demonstrated to those of us who know what the actual numbers are that you don't have any idea what you are talking about.
If schools are getting 35% from local and 51% from state, where are they getting the balance?
You make the ridiculous claim that state government has grown 19% w/o medicaid which is DEAD WRONG!! Go and look at the numbers,,, I have them right in front of me and it INCLUDES MEDICAID. State government itself has hardly grown at all.
Anonymous said…
anon 917.

Im not sure what anon 353 was talking about, but your remark "hardly grown at all" in reference to State government begs rebutal.

I know this, The non k-12 portion of the general fund is one of, if not the fastest, growing State government in the USA.

The general fund budget was 600 million in 1996. Half was k-12 and the other half was everything else, 300 and 300. Six years later the general fund budget was over 900 million, except k-12 was still at 300 million and the budget for everything else doubled to 600 + million. Thats a record of 6 years in a row of 12 percent growth per year. Thats not what I would call
"hardly grown at all"

Find another State with that kind of growth in their budget that had the rather stagnant population growth like we had.

I believe more than once in the last decade South Dakota had the #1 sales tax revenue growth in the nation.

You must be a Janklow brainwashed legislator. There is at least one person in this blog smart enough to know that SD has been very fortunate in the area of "growth of revenue"

Since you have the numbers right in front of you, how "little" did Sate government grow ? I am a little behind in the info, I havent researched the numbers from 2004 to 2006.
nonnie said…
"The general fund budget was 600 million in 1996. Half was k-12 and the other half was everything else, 300 and 300. Six years later the general fund budget was over 900 million, except k-12 was still at 300 million and the budget for everything else doubled to 600 + million."

This is what gets me so irritated when Rounds says he has increased state aid to education. He and the legislature have NOT increased state aid to K-12. And THAT is the problem. Simple as that. But few see it.
Anonymous said…

Listen to him closely, He usually says "per student" which is accurate, however the total amount is staying very flat, nothing even close to the rest of the general fund.
Anonymous said…
nonnie; heres the real scoop

in 1999 State aid plus local effort equaled (approx) $484,634,291.00

in 2004 the total was $509,698,710.00

thats an increase of $25,064,419.00 or 5.17% over 5 years, or just a hair over 1% per year !!

To be fair, there was a decrease of 8000 or so students during this time.

Just remember this the next time you hear a legislator brag about how much they have increased the funding for k-12 education.

Ask'em how many other state programs received an average of 1.3 percent a year increase over the last 5-6 years, watchem turn red.
Anonymous said…
my last post should have said 1.03% a year instead of 1.3%
nonnie said…
Our property taxes for schools (local effort) have increased every year, even without an opt out until now. And the levy for capital fund is the higest it can be and will remain that way for a long time because we just built a new elementary school. And our taxes have increased more than 1.03% per year!

How can the state get away with saying they are spending more and more if the amount they contribute only rose 1.03% per year? Yeah, I guess they can if they say "per student" because the number of them keeps decreasing statewide and in our district.

I did talk to Rounds during Capital for a Day about this issue, but didn't get anywhere naturally.
Anonymous said…

If you can tell me your school district, I have a comparison of all,as far as state aid and local effort, students etc, I would be glad to tell you how you compare.
Anonymous said…
Anon 917

You don't know the actual numbers. Actually, why don't you take a look at the Department of Education's website, look through their data on school finance.


And, you are an ignoramous if you don't know that there are three funding source - federal, state, and local.

From your tone, I can only assume you are a know-it-all legislator (possibly even Schmuckingham himself) or a member of state government.

Know your facts.

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