Sunday, June 14, 2015

Humble Proposal for Finding Additional Funds for Education

On June 16, the Blue Ribbon Task Force will be in Sioux Falls to discuss the following question (and possibly the only question, but time will tell): What possibilities are there to meaningfully fund education for our kids and our communities?   We are currently in Phase 1 of the process of listening to feedback from the public, appointing members, and other "listening/gathering" steps.

I would like to start with a question: What is the definition of "meaningfully"?  I will be very interested to hear if this get defined or has been defined to allow for development of the discussion.  Maybe it is Cory's suggestion at Dakota Free Press of $60,000 for each teacher or maybe it is a constant funding stream of 2% or maybe it is close all public schools and make students attend private charter or religious schools with the state providing a voucher of $4,000 for all students.  I think a majority of people would look at it from a level of being in the 70% of the US national average and be closer to all of our neighbors like Nebraska, Iowa, or North Dakota.  South Dakota's average salary was about $40,000 compared to our nearest neighbor of North Dakota at $48,600 and Nebraska at $49,500.  Those states are at a level of 85% and 86.5% respectively of the national average.  That would mean increasing funding just for teacher's salaries by an average of $8,000 at least.  That means increasing around $73 million.

To accomplish this, funds will need to come from a variety of places.  I offer this as a starting point by doing some quick looking at our state budget.  Examining what I consider to be "non-essential" services (These are parts of the government whose job does not impact the whole of the state) and making some cuts to those programs to help our schools, we can at least have a jumping off point.  Here are my recommendations with some justification:

First is the Department of Tourism- Cut their General Funds of $1.94 million.  Funds from other sources could be shifted to cover the loss on the "history" component. 

Next is from Executive Management which eats up nearly $31 million of the general funds budget.  (Don't get me started on the fact the Governor's office wants to increase that to nearly $46 million, an amount that would increase school budgets by more than $105 per student just on the "proposed" increase alone).  I have broken these down from certain sub-groups-

GOED- $2.49 million.  They saw an increase of $15 million from other funding sources, so I think that they can do without their general funds amount.

Bureau of Finance and Management- $4 million.  They say an increase of $5 million from other funds.  For some reason it says that the Governor would like to increase this areas total budget for 2016 by more than $33 million. 

Bureau of Administration- $3 million.  This agency saw an increase of over $6 million between 2014 and 2015.  The governor wants to add another $1.6 million for 2016.

Next is from Legislature- $644,000.  This is basically the increase in "personal services" between 2014 and 2015.  It is not much, but every little bit helps.

Department of Agriculture- $600,000.  This was the general funds increase between 2014 and 2015.  It also saw an increase of federal and other funds of nearly $4 million.

This simple beginning would increase funding by around $98 per student.  It doesn't get to $73 million, but it is a start.

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