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Sunday, March 7, 2010

South Dakota Education Spending: Dollars and Rankings

Working up my post on the supposed monetary value of students brought me to the Census Bureau's page on public school finance data. Yum, numbers!

Some statistics I find interesting (all from AY 2006–2007):
  • 50th: South Dakota's rank in state revenue spent per student on K-12 education.
  • 56%: ratio of South Dakota's state per student spending to national average.
  • -1.07: z-score of South Dakota's state per student spending (we're the only state more than a full standard deviation below the national average)

  • 32.8%: amount of total South Dakota K-12 education spending from state sources.
  • 49th: South Dakota's rank in percentage of K-12 education funding from state sources.
  • 11th: South Dakota's rank in percentage of K-12 funding from local sources.
  • 4th: South Dakota's rank in percentage of K-12 funding from federal sources.

  • 9th: South Dakota's rank in per pupil spending on general administration (district-level: board, superintendent).
  • 48th: South Dakota's rank in per pupil spending on school administration (school-level: principal).

  • $37.86: amount per $1000 of personal income South Dakota spends on K-12 education.
  • $43.02: amount per $1000 of personal income spent on K-12 education nationwide.
  • 6: number of states spending less as a percentage of income on K-12 education (Tennesse, Nevada, Arizona, Washington, Colorado, and Florida)


  1. Corey - not to confuse your analysis with reality - but at what level do our students perform on standard measurements like literacy, ACTS scores, SAT scores, attending post-HS education, get jobs, raise families - preferably in our state, avoid prison, etc....

    The issue is performance, not cost

    --Lee Schoenbeck

  2. Hmm... so if the issue is performance, not cost, would you like to change the key variable in the funding formula to ACT scores instead of ADM? Arlington was top scorer last year, and Rutland has been in the top ten recently. Maybe a system like the ag-income tax, Olympic average over the past eight years?

    But then you run into the feedback problem: suppose a school is short of resources and does poorly on tests. If you cut their funding even further, might you make it harder for them to improve performance?

    Or suppose you base funding on later real-world performance. Recession hits, lots of grads lose jobs... do we cut funding for their alma maters?

    We want performance, sure... but cost is a heck of a lot easier to measure.

  3. The whole point of public education is to level the playing field for all children by providing quality, comprehensive programs that are somewhat comparable between communities. As Cory points out, local and federal taxpayer support is already strong. Public education cannot be something that people vote for (at least according to our state's constitution), yet the state's lack of support for public education is forcing Madison and many other schools of all sizes to turn back to local voters to maintain minimal levels of educational quality. So community "A" votes to fund their school while community "B" does not.... leading to huge disparities between wealthier (more progressive?) communities and other areas that are economically disadvantaged or whatever.
    Our current state aid formula does address disparities between communities by equalizing the per-pupil funding but the per-pupil amount is a few hundred short. It needs to be high enough for the largest school districts to operate without imposing general fund opt outs on local taxpayers.

  4. Fred Deutsch3/08/2010 5:32 AM

    As a corollary, you may have noticed the Race is on … and the ‘sweet 16’ finalists are: CO, DE, FL, GA, IL, KY, LA, MA, NY, NC, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, and DC.
    At first glance, there seems to be no common patterns among these states for the phase I competition — about half of them are right-to-work states; some have charter school laws; some don’t; some have policies that link student achievement to teacher evaluations; some don’t. However, geographically, they tend to be from the south; Colorado is the only state from west of the Mississippi – and of course, we don’t see SD in the list.

    From the beginning I’ve wondered about our state’s ability to compete. Does the size of our state’s ed department necessarily put us at a disadvantage in obtaining federal funding? Our state’s proposal for Race To The Top dollars was the development of a school dedicated to a small slice of our Native American population. How does that compare to the scope and the impact of an application from, for example, the state of Ohio (one of the finalists), which promises to support 15 projects that will accelerate existing reforms (6), innovate with new efforts to support reform (6) and reinforce infrastructure to required to sustain reform (3).

    Continue Assessment Leadership
    Expand Value-Added
    Personalize Learning through Formative Instruction
    Redesign Educator Performance Management Systems
    Ensure Equitable Distribution of Educators
    Support Educators to Support Student Growth

    Align Curriculum to Support Teachers
    Utilize Evaluation Results to Support Educators
    Expand Effective Educator Preparation Programs
    Increase Higher Education Accountability
    Turing Around Ohio's Lowest Achieving Schools
    Amplify STEM Adoption

    Sustain Capacity to Execute Statewide
    Engage Stakeholders in Collaboration
    Improve Access to Student Data

    How can South Dakota compete with that? Do we have the resources? Are we at a disadvantage?

  5. Fred: the charter school was the only thing we put in our Race to the Top app? No wonder didn't make the cut. And isn't Race to the Top matching funds? If we weren't willing to put up a big investment of our own, perhaps Uncle Sam wasn't interested in playing ball. Did our stinginess kill our chances?

  6. I don't understand how the argument again shifts to something other than state support for K-12 public education. While I appreciate Fred's contribution and perspective as a school board member of a large school, South Dakota already ranks 4th in Federal dollars coming in for education.
    We are already at a disadvantage with other states for hiring new teachers and keeping the ones we have. I understand, for example, that the applicant pool for teaching jobs at the Sioux Falls Public School District has dropped considerably over the last few years. This is why they (the Sioux Falls school district and business community) are pushing for more substantial increases in the state-funding formula.
    Chasing additional federal grant dollars or other federal aid will not provide a consistent, long-term solution for properly funding the public education of every K-12 student in South Dakota.

  7. CAH-

    Could you please point me to a study that concludes that academic achievement is proportional to funding?

    Also, is there some context for these numbers? I would not be surprised that if compared to the NYC school systems, we only paid half as much. It's simply a more expensive place to live...

  8. SD ranks 9th in general administration spending (district, board, and superintendent). School district consolidation would give us more bang-for-the-buck in the classroom.
    John Kelley

  9. More money restores or creates additional programs that challenge students to learn. Our work ethic and pride of performance is what drives our achievement results, not the money. Unfortunately, Pierre knows that. Imagine what level our students could perform at with additional dollars for programs that encourage larger learning. Lowest paid educators, lowest spending level on students and still our results are tremendous, even with the reductions most schools have taken. That's something to be proud of, but if our kids perform at that level without additional money, imagine the learning that can take place with additional challenging programs in our schools.

  10. Fred Deutsch3/08/2010 12:20 PM

    Yes, our Race to the Top application was all about establishing a charter school for a slice of the Native American population. It’s an admirable goal, given the gap in academic performance between the Native American and white populations. I just wonder if the effort was too small to gain much traction in Washington. Each state’s application was graded according to a 500 point rubric. The 16 finalists are said to have scored at least 80% or 400 points. To date the scores have not been released, so SD has no way to know if we are close to the cut off of being a finalist in the next round or if it should scrap the idea and reboot.

    To respond to Rambin’ Super,
    our state's challenge is to educate our youth to enter a fiercely competitive global economy that rewards high cognitive abilities. The data is pretty clear that SD does a good job compared to other states, but is mediocre when compared to other industrialized nations. Schoenbeck's right, the issue isn't cost, it's performance. South Dakota will provide more money to education when enough people (and legislators) believe our children, our teachers, and/or our schools are no longer perfoming adequately. Seems to me the current perception is that we are.

    My belief is that education will continue to improve in South Dakota not because of a significant influx of more money, but because of how we use it (targeted dollars), and because of the nature of our hard-working salt-of-the-earth people.

  11. Tony, I have no such study available and make no claim to funding-achievement correlation. However, for context on the cost doing business, I'm happy to point you to my regular source for state-by-state Cost of Living data. Any thoughts?

  12. CAH-

    Interesting, you're correct, our state's contribution doesn't track with cost of living. However, we are sucking up quite a few more dollars from the federal government for education than other states (we're ranked for 4 for federal subsidies).

    I wonder if our low state contribution is brought up to a reasonable level by federal contributions. We are a welfare state after all. I'm going to need to dig into these numbers a little deeper.


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