RCJ gets it on educational spending..

I don't recall that I'd ever seen such a spot on editorial as I did this AM as I read the Rapid City Journal on the internet (my dead tree copy is in Pierre, awaiting my return). While I might not agree with all of the characterizations, they hit the nail on the head perfectly - South Dakota spends what it has available to spend on education.

State spends on education what it has available to spend

Gov. Mike Rounds' budget plan for fiscal 2008 had few surprises. Reactions to the governor's spending blueprint weren't surprising either.


That wasn't enough, said some lawmakers and educators. If so, it's up to
the Legislature to find more money. New Senate Democratic leader Scott
Heidepriem of Sioux Falls said the state should take some of its $877 million in
various trust funds and use it for public education.

That's an idea to consider, but also consider that once the trust funds are depleted, so is the boost to education. Lawmakers then would have to cut education, raise taxes or cut other state programs - the options aren't very attractive. And many of the biggest funding programs - Medicaid, for example - can't be cut.

Of course, lawmakers could raise taxes when they meet in January to spend more money on schools. That's probably not going to happen.

Gov. Rounds' budget spends a barely adequate amount on public schools, because there is only a barely adequate amount of tax revenue to spend on education.


Increasing education spending without a corresponding increase in the tax base to pay for it is putting the cart before the horse.
Read it all here. Really, it is a good point. The budget is practically tapped out when it comes to raising what's spent on education. Any - and that's ANY increase - should be considered a job well done because there isn't any large kitty of unused tax money out there.

Yes, Dems will automatically point to the reserves and say "unused money, unused money!" But what happens when they're gone? By that time schools will be in the middle of new state supported projects, and then all of the sudden, the well is dry.

If people want to put more money into education, there's only two ways to do it. Raise taxes or cut spending in other areas. And when it comes to the latter, then choices have to be made, and it's hard to point out many (if any) South Dakota Democrats who propose program cuts.

And when it comes to the former, there's a big reason why many (mainly R, but many D) politicians run from the words "tax increase." Because of the size and governmental structure of our state, South Dakotans feel they are tapped out when it comes to taxes.

So we exist in this steady state. We do what we can for education, but unless someone wants to voluntarily pony up, they get what they get.

But we still have the complainers.

So, here's a novel thought... Instead of expending all of their efforts criticizing those in government, if education wants more money to educate kids and for increasing teacher salaries, they might consider a change in tactics.

If SDEA took half the energy they put into criticizing politicians (mainly Republicans) and redirected it into convincing South Dakotans that education was a worthwhile investment and worthy of paying more out of their pockets, god forbid they might actually experience some success.

And maybe that's a novel idea for them to consider - Instead of criticizing the well keeper, why don't they figure out a location for a new well, and lend a hand in digging.


Anonymous said…
You're brushing up against it PP when you use the word "investment." In that context, think of the reserves as "seed money" or "operating capital" to get the motor running. The plan from there would be to set up incentives whereby this kick-start in educational funding transitions into increased prosperity for the state, finally resulting in new revenues to continue funding after the predetemined investment period ends.

Most new ventures have a 5 year break even proforma. Perhaps if the action is viewed as an exercise in venture capitalism, the business minded among you might see the exercise in a different light.

Just trying to think outside the box here.
been there said…
Remember, the SDEA is a labor union and primarily interested in raising and raising and raising salaries for their members, not in bettering education.
Also, a side note on the budget. I thought it was totally pathetic how, for the 6th (at least) consecutive year a Republican Governor whined and moaned about the still-existing structural deficit caused by the loss of the inheritance tax. This is really getting lame,he's raised cigarette and cell phone taxes, plus had steady increases in nearly all income flows (sales tax, lottery, excise taxes, etc.), plus raised some fees for services. The main reason you have a problem, Mike, is that you keep building government bigger and spending more money. Each budget is a seperate entity unto itself and you can do with it as you wish. Will this sob story still be told 50 years from now??
Anonymous said…
Amen been there...
Mike is a good ambassador for his favorite union "State Government" The workers there must adore him and think he's a righteous dude as he continues to drive the Pierre economy with the rest of the state's tax dollars. The median income for Pierre is 47k, see how well your community compares at www.census.gov
Anonymous said…
"why don't they figure out a location for a new well"

Like maybe, God forbid, a state income tax?
nonnie said…
I think some more money is needed for K-12 education. But just when I admit that, our school district hires a firm to find a new school supt. They don't have enough money now, and they hire someone to do what they are supposed to do. My sympathy for their dire straits is diminishing rapidly.

And USD going to Division I. How's that goign to help education in SD? Kids who care nothing about the sports in colleges are already footing a great share of that bill with no choice in the matter. And now they are going to spend more in Division I. Why don't schools get back to academics and leave the sports as a separate entity for those who want to pay for them.

Once again, as an alternative to fund education, tax pop/soda a nickle a bottle. Other states do it for recycling purposes. We could do it for education. Too simple? Put the money raised in a separate fund and dole it out once or twice a year on a per student basis, no formula, no schemes, just in and out. Someone tell me why this wouldn't work.

Especially now that we have that long awaited special study commission report that wants to do nothign except sock it once more to the property taxpayers.
Topes said…
By now it has become conventional wisdom that "our schools need more money". This phrase is repeated by elected officials and voters alike. But, can anybody here say exactly why our schools need the money?

To me the cry for more funding rings hollow. South Dakota kids continue to graduate from our high schools, go on to colleges or technical schools, and end up with gainful employment. Where is the problem?
rep. rich engels said…
We have at our disposal funds earmarked for education that state government has not been using for education.

from June 30, 2004 to present, the Education Enhancement Trust Fund has grown from $347 million to $371 million. It has grown because legislatures have been stockpiling interest instead of directing the interest to schools where it is needed.

It takes a 3/4 vote of the legislature to direct that additional $12 million in interest to schools every year, but it can be done.

We can have that much extra funding for education each year WITHOUT raising taxes and WITHOUT using the principal from the Education Enhancement fund.

Now that we've identified a source of additional funding (that was already earmarked for education but not being utilized) let's get it done!
Anonymous said…
I disagree with you (RCJ and PP) on this one. The revenue growth of this State is 2-3 times as much as the increased revenue for k-12 education. If 3% or the rate of inflation is good for the taxpayer and the State when it comes to k-12, cities and counties; why not the board of regents budget ? why not medicaid ? why not corrections ? what is the rationale for allowing these budgets to increase 3-4 times the rate of inflation year after year ?

Pre 1996: 53% of the sales tax revenue was earmarked for k-12 education. When sales tax revenue growth was 12%, then k-12 received a 12% increase, just like the rest of the States budget.

Post 1996: revenue growth has been about 6% and K-12 education has received less than half of that (approx). General fund revenue for k-12 is less today than it was 5 years ago (more per student but less total dollars)

Medicaid is just an unfunded federal mandate, mostly, for lazy, glutonous, smoking, crybabies, whose sole reason for being on medicaid is that they are so fat from being so lazy they need a wheelchair to get around and a handicapped parking sticker.

I think our kids deserve at least as much consideration as these folks !!!!!!
Been there said…
nonnie - Regarding the school district hiring a firm to find a new superintendent: that is standard operating procedure for school districts.
Superintendents, especially good superintendents, are few and far between nowdays. School board members lack knowledge on what is needed when hiring a superintendent. Those are two reasons why they need outside help.
A third reason is time. These are volunteer positions that pay very little. Most of these people have full-time jobs and families that demand their attention.
Serving on the school board is a thankless job that sets people up for criticism. That is why few people want the job.
It is easier for people to complain about what school board members are doing than to take the time to serve on these boards themselves.
So please don't criticize these people unless you have been in their shoes or are willing to do so.
Anonymous said…
pp, You are assuming that SDEA members could convince enough South Dakotans that education is a good investment. If the rantings and name calling that I've seen on this blog are any indication, I seriously doubt that.
been there said…
Hi, I was the original "been there" at 11:32 and in the past. I am not the same person as "been there - 4:55", although I do not disagree with what they said.
Also, good to see rich engels back, and good riddance to elaine r., but you shouldn't really be using your rep. title again until you get sworn in in Jan. (I personally would have liked to see Darryl Christiansen back in Pierre, too).
Anonymous said…

how many of those people on the school boards hire employees at their own businesses? I can count 10 school boards up and down I-29 that have businessmen who hire employees themselves, than use taxpayer money to hire a supt.

Also, what are we supposed to do with the increases in state aid?

More money for teachers? Then what? Stand back and watch every kid go to harvard and yale? Higher test scores? What will the money do besides increase the paychecks of the educational establshiment?
Anonymous said…
Sigh. It's not about teacher salaries, really. Everyone that thinks so is a bit confused.

There's a simple argument, really. But too few policymakers, and members of the general public, aren't educated about the changing world.

It's a product of living in South Dakota - people can't see very far past their faces. Except professional educators, who take their jobs seriously, and know the grave state of education in the United States.

OK. Time for a simple argument. The Department of Transportation wants to build a road. They know just about how much it costs to build roads. They've seen it done before. So, they take their budget, and they go out for bids to the road construction folks, and the road construction folks get money based on what it costs to do the job.

No so with education, though. We saddle public education with high demands without giving any thought to what it takes to do the job.

You say kids are graduating - true. But, 30 percent of the kids that go to college have to take remedial classes.

Truth is, if you think the most important thing that kids can know is how to read, chances are you're really too stupid to make a judgement on this, and you should probably just leave it up to the professional educators.

As for funding - well, there's nearly a BILLION dollars in state reserves. You could find interest earnings, combine it with cutting the budget elsewhere. It can be done.

If they want to.

Some other hypocracies.

10 million in Rounds budget for state employees. 4 million in rounds budget for teachers. State employees are 41st in the nation in pay. Teachers are 51st in the nation for pay.

Rounds hammers budget reserves. His budget reserves have tripled since 98, not including the huge gains in the trust funds. Oh, and, school districts have to use their reserves to cash flow their operations, state government has a special 600 million slush to make sure it cash flows.

There's more. But, it's not going to change anyone's mind. R's just really aren't in tune with what schools, and our children, need to be successful in tomorrow's world.

They can't see. It's unfortunate.
Dewey said…
I'm with 11:23 AM, "[T]hink outside the box here." Use the Free Market concept. Privatize education, give each student a voucher and let the economies of the free market clear all the rubbish out of the curicula we have now and wring all the waste, fraud and abuse out of the failed public education system. Same with higher ed, too.
VJ said…
Well, if we give each one of our teachers a $1,000 pay raise tomorrow, we don't get a better education. We just get better paid teachers.

I'm not saying they don't deserve the money. They already give 100 percent every day. They would make more money. The education outcome would stay the same.

We need to increase teacher pay. We know how to do that. We need to get more from our schools. How do we do that?
Anonymous said…

The real way to improve education is to bring a higher level of education to those that educate.

Specifically, we need to incorporate a high quality professional development program for all school districts.

Our eductors need to learn about how to integrate 21st Century Skills into lesson plans. They need to be trained on how to integrate technology and critical thinking skills into everything students do.

To do that, we need to add contract days for teachers.

High quality professional development throughout the system is the one thing that research clearly says impacts student achievement.

Investing in education also means early childhood programs. Ask the Chair of the Minnesota Federal Reserve what he believes the return on early childhood is.

As far as paying teachers more goes - we just need to stop the outmigration. A high proportion of teachers leave the profession within the first five years - they can make more money doing almost anything. We need to incent these people to stay, and support them to become educational leaders.

Anyone in education knows what it takes. Largely, though, it's different for every system - that's why its hard to come up with a statewide plan. Individual districts need the authority to use the funds that best reflect their communities.

Imagine the Sioux Falls school district integrating medical technologies curriculum into the highschool level - creating specialized high school graduates.

Imagine the Miller public schools creating a dairy science curriculum at the high school level, boosting the communities ability to be responsive to indistry.

These things are going on all over the United States. It can be done.

Think outside the box, indeed.
Been there 2 said…
5:27 - My apologies for using your name. I was in a hurry and not paying enough attention. I just picked what occured to me because I served on a school board and saw the problems first hand.
Thank heavens you agreed with what I said since I used the same moniker!

5:28 - The people who hire employees for their own businesses should have a good handle of what the job involves and what they should look for in an employee - at least I would hope so. Most school board members, on the other hand, are not that well informed on what to look for in a superintendent.
Things have changed a lot from years past. Just understanding the formulas for state and federal funding is a challenge in itself.
Believe me, it's cheaper in the long run to hire professional help to prevent a problem than to pay someone to get things straightened out after things go wrong.
Anonymous said…
To all of you "then what" folks, who believe that "improvement" should be tied to more money for k-12.

first of all, the results are pretty good here, students do well.

secondly, why not use the same yardstick to measure all reciepents of our tax dollars?
Despite the fact that their budgets are increasing 2-4 times faster than inflation. What "more" are we getting from social services? I thought welfare numbers were going down. What more are we getting from our universities? What more are we getting from the department of corrections ?

Using the "no more money untill you improve" benchmark could and should apply to all, not just k-12. Yet we watch those budgets skyrocket with nary a question !!!

3% or the rate of inflation for all, or none, isnt that fair?
nonnie said…
To 4:55 been there. Actually my hubby did serve three years on a school board, and he later ran for a different school board but lost. I would also be willing to serve. But willing to serve and able to get elected are two different things.
Anonymous said…
If the teachers would like a pay raise, they should dump their SDEA dues. The schizophrenic behavior of these people has become an embarrassment.
Anonymous said…
The real reason that more money doesn't go to education is that the majority of the general public doesn't want it to.

The Education Alliance has done a terrible job convincing the legislature, and the public, that more money = smarter kids. All they talk about is "we need more money" without saying what the taxpayers will get for their money.

Teachers moving out of state, or leaving for another job doesn't cut it, that happens in every profession.

Then when more teacher pay is offered in the form of merit/performance pay, they scream bloody murder about that too.

Why are they afraid to reward their best? That's how it's done in private enterprise.
Anonymous said…
Did you mean to misspell "educational?"
SD corrections officer said…

In response to your query about what we are getting from our corrections department here in South Dakota.

We are getting the bad guys locked up and none have escaped. I'm glade that we are getting what we pay for.

Ask and ye shall recieve..
Anonymous said…
SD corrections officer;

Is what you do more important than our kids ?

My question was, if 3% or the rate of inflation is good enough for our kids, why does corrections and all the other out of control departments deserve 2-4 times as much ?
Dedicated Instructional Professional said…
Enough of the SDEA bashing.
Speaking as a SDEA member, please allow me to state they DO care about quality education. There are online forums and opportunities to submit teaching techniques, tips, what works in a continually changing profession. There are grants that we in the profession and members can apply for that deal specifically with innovative approaches. If obtaining a grant, we then go on to share this to better help out other professionals. Those here that are critics, really don't know the organization or that it's a professional resource -- as well as an organization which does look after the rights of it's members.

I work with dedicated professionals, there days before our contract calendar begins -- getting ready and preparing for the school year. Unpaid and done completely out of care for the students and wanting to do the job right. I easily spend 5 to 10 extra hours a week outside the contract" time grading, communicating with parents or sharing ideas with other teachers, investigating other approaches or ideas to enhance my instruction, assisting students that have missed school or don't understand a concept in the subject. I'm not alone and in good company with other fine individuals in the field. All are worthy of being recognized or of merit pay. So, what is the fair way to divide up the kitty? What then happens to the spirit of collaboration, sharing and exchanging ideas and working for the betterment of the students? If money is involved, it'll be every man/woman for themselves, the general good for the students will be what suffers. Who is in charge of deciding who are the most worthy recipients? If tied to statistics of a math/English test - and if statistically performance is lower when poverty is involved ... how are the teachers working with lower income and students with other challenges rewarded? I'm sure math, science, language arts will be areas where merit pay is considered, but what about the librarian that selecting critical reference material, the p.e., music, and fine arts instructors that also play an important role and might be the areas that students are motivated to show up for in the first place? Gov. Rounds wants innovation -- for some small towns, innovation is how they make do daily.

Everyone talks how education is a priority -- but the abortion ban last season is where the focus was. Educational funding is on a very low flame on the back burner, or perhaps a kettle on top of the pilot light. The lawsuit regarding funding education may have to be what finally gets the pot boiling and real action happening in Pierre.
Pure speculation, but perhaps Gov. Rounds himself sees "merit pay" as something that will be so controversial that it won't go through, therefore appearing to be concerned about education without *really* having to do something in that area ... and yet another disappointing and nonproductive season in the area of funding education -- but he can point the finger of blame at the teachers -- for having some very reasonable issues and concerns about the merit pay route.

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