Thursday, September 11, 2008
Ranting and Raving
A few days ago, a former co worker of mine showed me an interesting article on keloland.com a TV station in Sioux Falls, SD. It was about a State Board of Education Board representative saying that the State of South Dakota inadequately funds education. This particular person is a superintendent of a Class A school in Northeastern South Dakota and frankly his comments are correct, the state of South Dakota does a poor job in funding education. So let's look into why the state legislature does not fund education well. First a person needs to understand the school budget and the four categories it contains. There is the General Fund which pays for teachers salaries, supplies and equipment etc...,. Then there is the Capital Outlay fund which pays for building improvements and repairs, no money designated in the Capital outlay fund can be used for salaries or supplies. Then there is the Special Education fund which is used for obvious reasons. The last category is the pension fund which is used for retirement money for employees of the district. This money more than likely is invested for profit. Each school gets an allotted amount of money from the state and from taxes collected from the county of the schools town. Each category mentioned above gets a certain amount of money. When the school year ends if there is money left over then schools can put the money into the reserve funds to use anytime they please. In the general fund schools are allowed to have, by state law, a 25% reserve fund in the bank, meaning for example, if a school districts general fund budget was 100 dollars and they had 30 dollars left over at the end of the year, legally they can bank 25 of those dollars. A lot of schools in South Dakota have built up a high reserve fund, many schools over the 25% mark. What happens if the school has a higher reserve than 25%, the school gets penalized by the state and is required to pay a portion back to the state. Many schools are doing this because the interest they earn from investing those general fund reserves each year is greater than the penalty they pay back to the state. So if I am a legislator, I have a hard time giving money to schools that take that approach and don't use it all. It seems ridiculous to give more to schools when some districts have a lot left over. Now, you might say so then how is South Dakota inadequately funded and the answer is that a majority of schools in South Dakota are struggling and when they tally up their reserves they are at 0% or in some cases in the red. These schools desperately need funding but the districts who continually rack up these huge reserve funds hurt these schools. The state of South Dakota needs to reexamine the reserve funds percentage and make changes to make schools use this money to pay teachers, who are highly qualified and valuable to communities. I have to say I left South Dakota as a teacher because I could make 17,000 dollars a year more than I would in South Dakota. The town I moved into in Wyoming actually has a cost of living less than the town l lived in South Dakota. It makes me upset in a way because I loved South Dakota and the school I taught at, it was a hard decision to leave, but I saw little being done to insure educators of staying in the state legislature and the local school board and the superintendent. (I also hated AAT, only people from BHCS will know what I mean) Going back to the state board member who said SD inadequately funds schools, his district is one of the biggest abusers of the reserve funds. His school currently has a reserve fund of Approximately 1.5 million dollars which is about 45-50%. ( these are guesses but pretty close) and he has the nerve to say in a courtroom that South Dakota does not provide enough funding for schools. He needs to realize that he is part of the problem and not the solution.