Mitchell Superintendent writes on the Governor’s proposed education committee. It might be about what spend education dollars on.

Mitchell School Superintendent Joe Graves is writing today in the Mitchell Daily Republic that South Dakota may actually be more competitive in school funding than the education lobby in the state might care to admit – and that part of the solution to teacher pay in the state might be up to schools in how they spend their money:

Yet, today, here I am stuck in the middle on the governor’s recently proposed blue ribbon committee to study the issue of teacher shortages and compensation levels. On the one hand, I view such an endeavor with a cynical eye, wondering if such a political animal is more about finding real solutions to a serious problem or about putting off the pain that such an obvious solution will bring to the political class. What better way to ignore a problem than by studying it one more time, ad infinitum or at least ad nauseam (the latter, quite literally).


State finance officials point out that while teacher compensation may be bottom of the barrel, funding provided to schools compared to other states is significantly more competitive. Which means, if accurate, that either South Dakota schools are spending money on things other than teacher salaries or that we have serious inefficiencies or just alternative choices in our education spending. An example of the former might be transportation, the busing of all those students across wide expanses of our sparsely populated state both to get to school and to the far-flung school district against whose basketball team we are competing. An example of the latter might be the need to pay a teacher and an administrator in a rural school in which class sizes fall below those that could be more efficiently maintained simply because there are no additional students.

Alternatively, there may be other options for increasing average teacher compensation levels other than the straightforward and endlessly offered by educators and their lobbyists: give the schools more so they can pay teachers more.

Read it all here.

I bring it up, as I don’t know those are statistics that we’ve heard much about before – and Graves brings up a valid point. We might very be competitive in what we spend, it’s just going to other expenses, and unable to be spent directly to educators.

And if that’s the case, we might not be excited with the solutions.

14 thoughts on “Mitchell Superintendent writes on the Governor’s proposed education committee. It might be about what spend education dollars on.”

  1. So is he suggesting perhaps we need to make the parents responsible for getting their kids to school and quit playing basketball, football, tennis, volleyball and track?

    1. IMO busing to school for academics should be a priority; however, busing for extracurricular activities (and the activities themselves) should not be the school’s and taxpayers’ entire responsibility. Parents and students need to accept some of the costs of these activities if they want to participate in them. Forming a well-rounded individual is not the sole responsibility of the school, but teaching academics is.

      1. Those of us who kept our kids “on ice” for figure skating and hockey paid for it ourselves: the arenas, equipment, coaching and transportation all came out of our own pockets.
        Ballet and baseball is also funded by parents. It is not fair that the kids who play football and basketball get so much funding at the expense of everyone else.

  2. I believe he is suggesting that it make no sense that we are dead last in teacher pay however are ranked about 35th in total funding.

  3. These statistics are not new just overlooked. I wrote a forum piece last April in the Journal that stated in part “
    While it is true that South Dakota is ranked 51st in the nation for teacher salaries, this fact does not tell the whole story of education funding when you compare our state to the nation. Each year the National Education Association publishes the Rankings of the States and Estimates of School Statistics. The latest edition was published in March of this year and the results are interesting.
    South Dakota is:
    * 47th in Public School Enrollment.
    * 48th in Instruction Staff.
    * 35th in Classroom Size at 13.8 students per teacher.
    * 46th in Personal Income.
    * 36th in Public School Revenue Per Student.
    * 36th in Per Capita Expenditures for Public K-12 Schools.”
    Read the whole article here:

  4. I had read that we were 39th in per student expenditures.

    I have been observing the problem after I moved to McLaughlin in 1978: when the high school went over a year without a math teacher, nobody cared. When they lost their basketball coach they all lost their minds.
    When I moved to Chamberlain in 1980 I inquired about the quality of the schools and all anybody wanted to talk about was basketball.
    When I moved to Mitchell, that was when it was so hot in August school was being dismissed early and the children sent home to empty houses. This led to the parents’ revolt against starting school before Labor Day. But all the opponents wailed it would interfere with high school football.
    When my oldest child graduated, president of the senior class from the Lyman County schools, he got early acceptance at USD. And remedial math as soon as he got there. (But their basketball team went to state!!! Whoopee!)
    When my daughter was in the Flandreau middle school, many of her teachers were men with no education in the academics they were teaching; they had all been hired to coach a sport in the high school. Their middle school classes were just babysitting jobs.
    Moving her under open enrollment to Brookings, I learned that the language lab for foreign language instruction had been cut for budgetary reasons. But they have a football team!!

    When I attended a public high school with an enrollment of 1000, we had a principal. We didn’t have a superintendent (that was a county job) and we didn’t have a vice principal.
    We didn’t have football, either, but I remember they bragged that of all the kids who graduated in 1966, only 3 did not go on to college.

    It’s been obvious to me for decades that South Dakota’s school boards have misplaced priorities. Don’t blame the legislature because they have blown their money on administrative costs and athletic programs!

    1. Wow! You moved around a lot during those years. That must of been hard not only for you but the kids. Very good observation though on local education priorities.

  5. But Anne the other side of the coin draws a different story. Of all those kids who keep their grades up so they can play BB or FB or Wrestling or Golf or VB etc. how many would stay in school only as long as needed and never be inspired to greatness in the classroom? Though I agree that school boards discuss sports more then classroom aptitude they are beholden to the taxpayer and the taxpayer wants their school to win. Parents make the difference in a child’s education more so than any one teacher can hope to. The magic at home happens around that dining room table. Always has and always will.

    1. How many of those students have their grades handed to them because the school has to win?

      1. Mr. Sibson Winning is everything! It teaches valuable lessons and our corporate sponsors like it too!

  6. “. Parents make the difference in a child’s education more so than any one teacher can hope to”


    So what do we do when [some, most?] parents are not meeting minimum standards as parents?

    Why do our schools move in to fill the void, whining for more funding after doing so?

    For example: school breakfast, subsidized lunches, backpacks of food, school nurses, attendance, nurseries, SROs, etc.

    These are parental DUTIES; our schools should simply REFUSE to fund these efforts, and demand that parents do their duties. That is TOUGH.

    But so are more & more taxes to fund more & more parental irresponsibility.

    1. Just got back to this. Agree, agree, agree! If you can’t walk the dog don’t buy one!!!

    2. Concur.

      I see it in church, too. “Here. Make my kid like Sunday School. I’m going to be in the truck listening to the game.” “Here, Mr. Youth Pastor. Fix my kid. Don’t bother me – that’s why I’m paying you.”

      The single most relevant factor in a child’s intellectual, moral, and spiritual development is the standards the parents hold and model for their children.

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