SDEA will seek increased education funding Legislators planning to use the projected budget shortfall as an excuse for not increasing education funding won't get much sympathy from the South Dakota Education Association (SDEA).
Elaine Roberts, SDEA president, said that public education funding must be increased during the 2002 legislative session.
"We've seen the projections and listened to the doom and gloom messages but we can't afford to wait for the economy to improve to properly fund public education. For years politicians who list education as their top priority when running for office have found a way to excuse their failure to vote for increased funding," Roberts said. "The budget shortfall is shaping up as this year's favorite excuse, but the funding needs are real and South Dakota kids can't wait."
Roberts said that legislators faced with requests for increased funding frequently ask," How much is enough?" She said that the answer they will get from SDEA is based on research and the answer is inflation plus two.
She explained that SDEA will propose that education funding at all levels (pre-K through post graduate) be increased by the rate of inflation plus 2 percent. SDEA estimates that it will take nine years of inflation plus two for South Dakota to catch up. This assumes that the other states improve education funding by the rate of inflation.
"Inflation plus two isn't just a catchy slogan that makes a good media sound bit. SDEA didn't just pick a number out of the air. The research tells the story. No matter how you look at the numbers, there is only one conclusion. State funding for public education is far below the level of funding in our neighboring states. Inflation plus two is a realistic way for South Dakota to catch up," she said.
The SDEA president cited several statistics that the association will use to justify inflation plus two.
* South Dakota ranks 49th in the percent of the total state budget allocated to education. SDEA contends that the percent of the total state budget allocated for education at all levels, (pre-K through post-graduate) is a good measure of the priority placed on education. South Dakota spends 13.6 percent of the total state budget on pre-K through post-graduate education, far below the level of neighboring states. By comparison, all of the neighboring states spend at least 18 percent of the total state budget on pre-K through post-graduate education. The range is from 18 percent in North Dakota to 24.4 percent in Minnesota.
* It will take nine years of inflation plus two to reach the average state revenue for K-12 education provided by our neighbors. SDEA computed the average state revenue for K-12 education in North Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and Montana to determine an average. In 2001-2002, state funding from all sources in South Dakota was $2,649 per student in average daily members (ADM). That is $247 more per ADM than North Dakota but $277 less than Nebraska, $539 less than Montana and $1,349 less than Iowa.
Minnesota and Wyoming were not included in the computation because both states support K-12 education at a significantly higher level than the rest of our neighbors. If Minnesota and Wyoming were included in the average, it would take several more years to catch up.
* South Dakota ranks 36th in per capita income but is last in educator salaries. Per capita income is a measure of the total wealth of a state. In 1999, the most recent numbers available, South Dakota ranked 36th in the nation in per capita income. In that same year, and continuing to the 2001-2002 school year, salaries for educators in South Dakota are the lowest in the nation.
Roberts said that it is time for legislators to place the same priority on education when they vote as when they are running for office.
"The numbers tell the story," she said. "It isn't a question of 'Can we do more?'