As we fight about whether or not schools are underfunded, here's the statistic we should be most concerned about...

The Argus Leader is reporting this AM that a national study shows that at the same time people are saying we're last in education as far as teacher salaries are concerned, we're near the top as far as educational achievement:
....the state was fourth in the nation in achievement indicators. A greater percentage of South Dakota students scored at or above a proficient level in standardized math and reading tests.


"This report seems to take a broader look at our educational program," he said.

As for the state's low rank in aligning statewide programs to help students transition through school, Melmer cited South Dakota's governing structure.

"We tend to have fewer statewide policies and more local policies," he said of why South Dakota has few of the policies the study looked for, such as "college prep required to earn a high school diploma" - which only nine states had.
Read it all here. Why the disparity? And how do those who say we're woefully underfunding education reconcile the underfunding with academic achievement?

Because it brings up questions of "how much is enough?" and "how much more is needed?" when we're already far above average in how our students do.


Anonymous said…
PP routinely forgets that as a state employee, in most years, all state emplyees get a 3% across the board raise and those who are paid less than the midpoint for their salary level get an additional 2.5%.

The governor's budget for state employees includes these 3% and 5 1/2% raises. But the school funding formula only goes up by a MAXIMUM of 3% a year. Yes, teacher salaries are set by school boards, but they're not getting the same annual increase in resources as state government gets.

So PP is whining about teachers wanting the same raise he gets.

Let's use PP's logic. If our state employees do a good job, why should we give them a raise?
Anonymous said…
State employees do not usually get 3% for one thing. The formula says 3% max but that certainly doesn't mean more money and services haven't been provided outside the formula. State employees aren't guaranteed anything unlike the formula. The formula just makes sure there is at least a guaranteed increase unless we have deflation which if we did, we would still provide more money voluntarily.
The school formula includes money for every operating expense, not just salaries. Teachers usually get 3% or more with their increase.
The difference between state employees and teachers is if the state employee sucks, we can fire them unlike teachers.
PP is making the point that high teacher pay doesn't necessarily mean better test scores.
lexrex said…
i think good teachers should be rewarded for this new information. these kids aren't learning on their own.

time for a merit pay system, so that when good news like this comes out, good teachers can by duly rewarded.
Anonymous said…
PP, here's one big reason why achievement scores are high when teacher salaries are low: South Dakota has (by and large) stable demographics. When you live in a state that is 88% Anglo, and the largest minority considers themselves to be a "separate nation (with all applicable degrees of separation that constitute their social system)," you should expect little change in test scores.

Unfortunately, this also applies to teacher salaries as well.
Anonymous said…

do you want some cheese with that whine?

Fact: local school boards can raise taxes by 3% and then go for an opt out above and beyond that.

Fact: local politicians are whimps by and large and don't want to raise taxes on their friends and neighbors. Pass the buck to the state legislature.

If locals want more money for education do what they did in Sioux Falls and fight for it.

If the locals vote it down, respect the popular vote.

I have heard liberals crying and whining about Gary Moore wanting to overturn the cigarette tax vote but where is the same outcry when people want to overturn the votes of local communities who don't want to pay more in property taxes for their schools?

Solution: the education community needs to comprimise with Rounds and take the merit pay solution.

Further, local school boards need to cut administrative costs by using best business practices and start putting 65 cents of every dollar into the classroom instead of hiring more assistant coaches and secretaries for the superintendents.
Anonymous said…
gop gone bad,

we're not talking about property taxes. We're talking about state funding. Local school districts have no control over that - legislators do. What do local opt out votes have to do with the legislature making a decision on state funding? Nothing at all - as you must know unless you're an imbecile.

And 10:39, Yes, state employees routinely get either a 4% raise (above midpoint) or 5 1/2% raise (below midpoint) every year. And the rate of increase for non-mandate state government funding goes up far more each year than the rate of increase for school funding. If schools can live with rate of inflation or 3%, whichever is less, state government should too.
Anonymous said…
typographical error. supposed to say 3% raise.
Anonymous said…
"we're not talking about property taxes. We're talking about state funding. Local school districts have no control over that - legislators do. What do local opt out votes have to do with the legislature making a decision on state funding? Nothing at all..."

I'll take off the last uncalled for comment,Scimitar.

Local opt outs are directly influenced by state funding. If the state would change the formula or some other way increase education funding even a little, opt outs would not be necessary. There are tied together. One directly affects the other. How do you think they are not??
Anonymous said…
I agree with gop come home that less money needs to go to administration and sports and more to academics/classrooms. Consolidate administration for several districts.
Anonymous said…
Scimitar, et. al.:

School boards have direct conrol over school funding. They have the ability to take 3% above property taxes each year for school spending.

Further, school boards in conjunction with locals have the ability to opt out above and beyond the 3% already taken in order to fund their schools.

Bottom line is that if locals want to increase education spending they can do it. They may not want to, but they have the capability to do so under South Dakota law through the opt out process.

State spending does not have to increase in order for the locals to increase education spending.
Anonymous said…
You can't fire a teacher? All you have to do is terminate or fail to renew their contract. State employees can't just be fired either. They have to be put on work improvement for at least three months before they can be let go and they have a much more developed appeals process than most school districts do.
Anonymous said…
I Agree that state spending may influence local opinion about an opt out but so do a whole host of other concerns that are as particular to the voter as is personality.

But, Nonnie that does not change the fact that GOP come home points out. Locals have control over education spending.
Anonymous said…
We need more money for education, SO WE CAN BUILD MORE GYMS!

Why do private schools graduate kids for about 2/3 the cost of public schools? And have on average higher test scores.

Let's try merit pay. We can always go back to the old way.
Anonymous said…
Locals have control over school spending, no argument there. BUT if the state more fairly and without the stupid formula gave a little more to K-12 education, opt outs would not be necessary. Don't you get it??

Opt outs are being forced on us to cover basic programs, not for the reason they were first put out as an option which was to add extra programs if locals wanted it.

State funding and opt outs are joined at the hip. Increase state aid, less opt outs. Decrease state aid or leave at status quo, more opt outs.
Anonymous said…
My daughter graduated last month from the University of Nebraska with an elementary education degree and got a job teaching in Lincoln NE. Her starting salary is more than what the Sioux Falls School District pays a teacher with 20 years experience. I looked it up and also confirmed it with a teacher I know who has been teaching in SF for 20 years. Education in South Dakota is in a sad state when we don't pay a decent wage to the professionals who teach our children and prepare them for the future.
Anonymous said…
nonnie, i used to think you were a conservative, but you've just blown your cover.

anon 11:37, how much does your daughter pay in state income tax? how much higher is her total tax burden? how much greater is her cost of living than in SD? is she finding it easy to meet her monthly financial commitments, including the above factors and college loan payments, etc?

feasant, right on! can anybody in the education establishment answer that question? i think i can. i think it's because when you're dealing with the private sector, they know they are dealing with a finite money supply from their patrons. public schrools spend with reckless abandon because they think they are dealing with an endless money supply that comes from the government's money trees. if they'd address spending, they'd find that they have a lot more resources at their disposal than they think they do. of course, that would require them to be fiscally responsible, and that's no fun.
Tomar Highlands said…
First and foremost. I think we have a good education system in this state as the figures show (proficiancy scores, ACT/SAT, #1 in putting HS grads into college, etc.). It wasn't too long ago that I graduated from our state's education system. I also think we have some excellent teachers as well. I'm also not opposed to merit pay, but I am realistic and know that the SDEA will never go for that. (Disclaimer, my mom is a current educator [SPED] in our state's education system)

Now lets get down to business.

Where teachers in minnesota make more money than those in SD, we have a much lower cost of living here. SD teachers make about 20% more than the average wage in our state, whereas teachers in minnesota make about 2% less than the average wage in their state.
Secondly, lets project how much the average teacher salary would be if teaching were a year round job. Current avg salary in SD is 34,000 (38,000 in SF). Projected yearly salary would be 45,000 (51,000 in SF).
Thirdly, teachers get a nice 3month vacation every summer as well as at least a 2 week break over xmas(a few days for thanksgiving and easter as well as a few nationally recognized days). The rest of the working world does not. Now for some teachers that isn't enough money, but hey they get 3 months to work if they want more. I know my mom works part time to make a little extra money over the breaks and during the summer (not becuase she has to but she likes that extra cash).
Fourth, we funnel over 52% of the state budget into education every year.
Finally, I would like to see us move up from 51st in pay, because I know that SD doesn't have the lowest cost of living in the nation and pay increase wouldn't hurt teacher moral, but to those who think its a better deal to work in Minn, have fun paying that state income tax!

Bottom line is, look at the numbers. Teachers don't get paid all that bad in this state when you get right down to it.

So please, no bashing teachers and education. It's obviously doing pretty well in our state. The only thing we're a little deficient in is pay. Please remember that we place 88% of our HS graduates in some type of post secondary education in this state, and that ranks us #1 in the nation!
Anonymous said…
Tomar, well said. I've been saying that same thing about comparing days worked by teachers with those of other professions, and comparing teacher wages with other SD workers. All facts have to be taken into consideration when complaining about being 51st. Also we are NOT 51st if we do factor in wages compared with cost of living, another fact never mentioned.

One thing you mentioned though is the 52% the state funnels into education. I beieve that includes higher ed, not only K-12. K-12 is where the shortfall is.

And anon 11:54,I AM a conservative. I don't like paying hundreds of extra dollars a year on opt outs (while a person in town only owning a house pays a pittance in comparison and therefore favors every opt out that comes along). I have attended school board meetings ever since the first opt out proposal and learned a lot. I do believe that our school system has pared down things. Did I vote for the last opt out based on that though? NO?

I believe that savings can be had with extracurriculars and with administration. But that takes changes made by the legislature or to the constitution (which is interpreted to say a free education includes free travel across the state to extracurricular activities anytime, anywhere). I think a free education includes academics. If kids particpate in extracurriculars, they should pay part of the cost. Just what do you think it costs the schools to end buses out to these activities? And administration should be consolidated, but again that's not something I can do anything about except blog about it.

Until those factors are addressed, I do think the state should cough up a little extra for education, but not thru the formula,just per student period. If the state doesn't,then under the guise of "local control" the local property owners got socked again. I don't think they need the huge amount the first commission study recommended though.
Tomar Highlands said…
Sorry Noonie, you're correct on that 52%. I do agree and am in major support of cutting back administration. How many administrators are in the SF District alone and I know Homan doesn't need 150,000 a year.
Anonymous said…
You know, I just read our local paper and there is a big article in it about how the current gym in the middle school is not big enough and we just have to have a bigger gym for sports!

Fine and dandy. The problem is we just built a new grade school which will keep the capital outlay levy at 3% for the next 10+ years to pay off those bonds. And the school cost of course ran over quite a bit. And paying for the school is admittedly putting other capital outlay projects on the backburner for a few years. And to top that, we passed a five year opt out a couple of years ago.

No problem for the sports enthusiasts though. They need their new gym! And they have already formed a committee to see about how to get it.

Well, I think this did it for me. At this minute I no longer care if the legislature appropriates more money or not. The schools can make do with what they have if this is their priority.

And BTW if anyone cares, the city I'm talking about is Madison and the school is the Madison school district.
Anonymous said…
anon 11:37, how much does your daughter pay in state income tax? how much higher is her total tax burden? how much greater is her cost of living than in SD? is she finding it easy to meet her monthly financial commitments, including the above factors and college loan payments, etc?

I don't know - she hasn't lived there long enough as a wage earner. I do know that her starting salary is about $10,000 more than what Sioux Falls offers. She had similar offers in Kansas and Missouri, so it isn't just Nebraska that offers more. As far as the summer breaks, yeah, those would be nice, but also keep in mind that she gets to school about 7:30 in the morning, is there until 4:30 or 5:00, and then spends her evening reviewing papers and planning for the next day. It isn't all fun and games. Also, how often do you hear about teachers spending money out of their own pocket to buy school supplies.

I've been down to Lincoln a number of times, and have to tell you that gas, rent, groceries, cars, houses, clothing, etc. aren't any cheaper in Sioux Falls than they are down there, yet we expect our teachers to pay for all those items on salaries that are worst in the nation. Lack of an income tax doesn't make up for all that, especially when you look at what we pay in property taxes here. I moved here from Minnesota many years ago and found that my property taxes were 6 times higher here than what I paid on a similar house (actually, more expensive house) in Minnesota.

My point is we demand that teachers have advanced education and that they perform a service that most of us don't want to do or are incapable of doing, yet we take some perverse pride in being the worst in the nation and, even worse, try to justify it by saying they only work 9 months or its cheaper to live here. It doesn't make sense and we need to do something about it, or we are going to find ourselves competing for the best of the left overs, because the good teachers are going to go where the money is.

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