Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 27-04-2015

We are on the final days of another Legislative session and yet again some in Bismarck are touting the millions of dollars more they are spending on education.  They will tell you that they have approved 2% or 3% or more new money for your kids.  That may be true when you look simply at the state foundation payment per child.  But, in the words of an admired radio celebrity, Paul Harvey, now for “The Rest of the Story”.

State Foundation payments for pupils have grown rapidly over the past five years in support of education and in 2013-14 to pay down local taxes.  This in an honest attempt to get state contributions to the cost of education over 70%.  Here are the numbers on this:
2011-12 – $3,779
2012-13 – $3,910
2013-14 – $3,980
2014-15 – $8,810
2015-16 – $9,092 ;  and their projections are to go move this to $9,274 at a minimum for this coming year.  Yes, that is 2.5%.

But, here is “The Rest of the Story”.  In the funding formula that we have now and will continue to have for the next two years the state calculates the number of kids a school has and in a simplistic calculation multiplies that times the state foundation rate.  So 100 kids x $9,092 = $909,200.  You might expect that this is what Bismarck would send… nope hold on.

The calculation then includes what is a 60 mill deduct.  The state determines what 60 mills of local taxation would generate and subtracts this from the formula.  Last year, for Ellendale, that was $833,198.  Schools are then required to tax locally at that amount at a minimum.  This then equates to the $9,092 per kid.

The problem is that the new money promised for education is not going to Ellendale.  It is in fact going to Fargo, Bismarck, and other schools.  Each year, due to valuation changes, the value of 60 mills in Ellendale grows.  So looking ahead here is what I see happening.  (You can find this information in detail on the EPS web site at www.ellendale.k12.nd.us)

2014-15   State$ $2,769,748  and 60Mills $833,198.  The local is picking up 23%
If projections hold this is what will happen the next two years..
2015-16  State$ $2,818,200 and 60Mills $933,182.  Local is now 25%
2016-17 State$ $2,807,810 and 60Mills $1,012,833.  Notice what happened here.  The local contribution is now 27% and state money actually went down.  They are not providing our kids with an additional anything.  They are shifting the cost of education slowly and surely right back to all of us. This is all while taxpayer shares in the big communities are as such:  Fargo 15.13%, Bismarck 16.91% and  Jamestown 14%.  That is the “Rest of the Story”.

I do want to commend Rep. Kelsch and Rep. Amerman for seeing the errors in this formula.  I also believe some in the other party are seeing the problem as well.. however the big power players in Fargo and Bismarck are not going to let this go without a fight.

“Good Day”





Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 14-04-2015

A couple weeks ago I published an opinion editorial in the Aberdeen News, concerning low teacher wages in South Dakota, that has been garnering a great deal of attention.  Subsequently, I have received many emails and comments from teachers and community members from my home state of South Dakota.  Some of their responses have been critical stating, in a nutshell, low wages are just the reality of teaching, teach or don’t teach.  None the less the vast majority of responses have been supportive of teachers and frustrated by the apparent lack of support for educators and education.

Every teacher in South Dakota or North Dakota, where I work now, comes to their classroom striving to help the precious children within it, each and every day.  They may have decided to become a teacher because of some important teacher in their past.  They attended four or more years of higher education preparing for the challenges that await them in the classroom.  Then they come to their classrooms each and every day because they care about kids, your kids.  Their commitment is not a concern.

My concern is this, what is the lack of political and fiscal support for education in SD doing to your kids?  Are we naive enough to think that teachers, just because they love kids, should work in a profession that is not respected, compensated, or supported?  Every profession is hopefully filled with people that love their jobs.  But, let’s be real.  The reality of being a parent, raising a family, providing for your home is not without concern and the wage we pay those working in our classrooms matter.  The recent piece done by KELOland identified this perfectly.  Sixty percent of juniors and seniors at SDSU in elementary and secondary teaching said they were leaving.  They are leaving your state, your schools, your classrooms, and your kids.  Why are they leaving, let’s be honest, it is in part due to pay.  If you are a teacher in any SD town would you move if you could earn an additional $5,000 in North Dakota, Minnesota, or Iowa?  I think your teachers will.  I think your teachers are moving already.

In the end what is left over?  It is not money.  What you have are fewer dedicated professionals trying to do more with less.  You have schools that are putting kids in front of computer screens instead of warm blooded teachers.  You have hundreds of vacancies that will be unfilled in August leaving your kids in classrooms with no trained professionals to help them.  Is this what you want for our kids?  This argument ends unfortunately much like that critical comment I shared earlier “teach or don’t teach”.  However, let me edit it slightly.  For those in or new to the profession of teaching the question is “teach here or teach somewhere else”.  South Dakota can your kids handle the repercussions of hundreds of teachers making that choice?  I would argue they cannot.  So parents, teachers, school administrators contact someone that can begin to fix this problem, before it is too late.