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Education Funding Talks Held In SD

One analysis of state education funding shows South Dakota puts less money into schools now than a generation ago. A series of public meetings is offering South Dakotans a glimpse at funding trends. The discussions include details about South Dakota’s education policy and offer an opportunity to collaborate with other people in the community.

Meetings from the South Dakota Budget and Policy Institute aim to illuminate the long-term trends of South Dakota’s K-12 education funding. Executive Director Joy Smolnisky says researchers went back to the late-1990s when the state implemented its current funding formula. She says the percentage of overall state income dedicated to education is falling.

"These are long-term statutes. They’ve been followed fairly closely throughout that 15 years. Some years a little more money has gone in. Some years a little less has gone in, but the basic statute has stayed in place," Smolnisky says. "And the question, I think, for South Dakotans to struggle with is, ‘Is that a reflection of our values, how much we believe education should be supported?’"

Smolnisky says she recognizes it’s an election year, but she says the numbers don’t reflect upon specific decisions from current leaders or political hopefuls. She says they are indicative of long-term education policy trends.

Smolnisky says the public talks are openings for South Dakotans to discuss whether the policy is effective and brainstorm solutions that could improve the state’s education funding method.
The fifth of seven community meetings happens in Sioux Falls Thursday from 6-8 p.m. at the Main Library downtown. Two additional public meetings are planned for Brookings and Yankton in the coming weeks. View the full list here.

Kealey Bultena grew up in South Dakota, where her grandparents took advantage of the state’s agriculture at nap time, tricking her into car rides to “go see cows.” Rarely did she stay awake long enough to see the livestock, but now she writes stories about the animals – and the legislature and education and much more. Kealey worked in television for four years while attending the University of South Dakota. She started interning with South Dakota Public Broadcasting in September 2010 and accepted a position with television in 2011. Now Kealey is the radio news producer stationed in Sioux Falls. As a multi-media journalist, Kealey prides herself on the diversity of the stories she tells and the impact her work has on people across the state. Kealey is always searching for new ideas. Let her know of a great story! Find her on Facebook and twitter (@KealeySDPB).