Legislative Leadership

This post is part one in a two part review of our Legislative leadership’s discussion on South Dakota Focus. The second half will be up tomorrow.

by Meghan Thoreau

Earlier this week legislative leaders had a round table discussion on major themes of this legislative session, and although Bills are the focus and outcome of the session, keeping up with the leadership is also important, especially to those that vote.

SD Focus host, Stephanie Rissler, spoke with leaders from both the South Dakota House of Representatives and the South Dakota Senate, about their goals and expectations for this session. This post summarizes our leaders commentary.

leadershipLEADERSHIP. Leading is never an easy pursuit. Leading is fraught with constant challenge and surprise. Good leadership understands that they are not facing challenges alone, but are part of a group, a legislator of people, working together to meeting each challenge and remaining goal centric. They say, “The leader’s job is not to solve every problem alone, but to inspire those he or she leads to solve the problems.” It’s important to make sure our leaders recognize that they may not always have answers, but are constantly reeducating themselves on their businesses, constituents, and honing their leadership skills.

FACTOID: Each state senator represents an average of 23,262 residents, and each member represents an average of 11,631 residents, as of the 2010 Census.


The South Dakota public school system (pre-kindergarten-grade 12) operates within districts governed by locally-elected school boards and superintendents. In 2012, South Dakota had 128,016 students enrolled in a total of 704 schools in 171 school districts. There were 9,247 teachers in the public schools, or roughly one teacher for every 14 students, compared to the national average of 1:16. There is roughly one administrator for every 310 students, compared to the national average of one administrator for every 295 students.(1) On average South Dakota spent $8,805 per pupil in 2011, which ranks it 41st highest in the nation. The state’s graduation rate was 83 percent in 2012.(2)

HAWLEY: sees the teacher shortage issue more relevant in smaller communities where attracting and retaining teachers is harder than with larger communities, like Brookings and Sioux Falls. (But being a rural state I would think that most communities are smaller communities and that a teacher shortage will impact more communities than we realize.)

SUTTON: takes the teacher shortage much more serious, stressing the fact that approximately 1,000 teachers will be retiring and we’re expecting only 700 teachers coming up to fill those vacancies. He stressed that many times teachers’ aids have to fill positions they are not fully qualified for and that our quality of education is being impacting.

GOSCH/RAVE: did not know or have strong opinions on school standards/Common Core, but did want to clarify that the Common Core(3) is not a federal standards as many people have stated, but were developed by the South Dakota Board of Education.

HAWLEY: is a strong supporter of the Common Core standards, because the United States is no longer a leader in education, falling somewhere in the middle while counties like China, Japan, and India take the top positions and believes setting minimum standards will elevate our educational standing. He also likes the fact that South Dakota sets our own standard, but allows teacher to decide how they want to teach to reach that minimum standard of education outcome. The Common Core is also getting rid of the “No Child Left Behind,” which was not a successful program.

SUTTON: responded to GOSCH’S statement that, “Lawmakers don’t set what a teacher makes,” by stating that 82% of a school’s general fund goes to teacher salaries and because a majority of school funding comes from state legislator, that indeed legislator sets the salary based on how we distribute funds. Sutton also clarified that although the school’s reserves may have increased that increase is only 1.5% in the last four years and it may sound like a big number, but it’s not when you consider the amount of dollars going to schools.

(Common Core, or the Common Core State Standards Initiative, is an American education initiative that outlines quantifiable benchmarks in English and mathematics at each grade level from kindergarten through high school. The South Dakota State Board of Education adopted the standards on November 29, 2010. Full implementation is scheduled to be achieved in the 2014-2015 academic year.)(3)

Demographic information for South Dakota’s K-12 public school system (4)
Ethnicity Students State Percentage United States Percentage**
American Indian 14,950 11.68% 1.10%
Asian 1,966 1.54% 4.68%
African American 3,390 2.65% 15.68%
Hawaiian Nat./Pacific Isl. students 124 0.10% 0.42%
Hispanic 4,993 3.90% 24.37%
White 100,417 78.44% 51.21%
Two or more 2,176 1.70% 2.54%
Comparison of financial figures for school systems (4)
State Percent of budget (2012) Per pupil spending (2011) Revenue sources (2011)
Percent federal funds Percent state funds Percent local funds
South Dakota 14.3% $8,805 20.26% 28.93% 50.81%
Montana 15.5% $10,639 16.35% 44.1% 39.55%
Nebraska 15.3% $10,825 15.04% 30.33% 54.63%
North Dakota 13.8% $11,420 14.8% 49.93% 35.27%
Sources: NASBO, “State Expenditure Report,” Table 8: Elementary and Secondary Education Expenditures As a Percent of Total Expenditures
U.S. Census Bureau, “Public Education Finances: 2011,Governments Division Reports,” issued May 2013
Revenues by source, FY 2011 (amounts in thousands) (4)
Federal revenue State revenue Local revenue Total revenue
South Dakota $262,395 $374,648 $658,100 $1,295,143
Montana $264,594 $713,886 $640,138 $658,100
Nebraska $571,969 $1,153,077 $2,076,882 $3,801,928
North Dakota $186,844 $630,430 $445,402 $1,262,676
U.S. total $74,943,767 $267,762,416 $264,550,594 $607,256,777
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
Estimated average salaries for teachers (in constant dollars**) (4)
1999-2000 2009-2010 2011-2012 2012-2013 Percent difference
South Dakota $39,728 $41,456 $39,450 $39,580 -0.4%
Montana $43,896 $48,845 $49,354 $49,999 13.9%
Nebraska $45,421 $49,345 $48,955 $48,931 7.7%
North Dakota $40,810 $45,862 $46,825 $47,344 16%
U.S. average $57,133 $58,925 $56,340 $56,383 -1.3%
**”Constant dollars based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, adjusted to a school-year basis. The CPI does not account for differences in inflation rates from state to state.”

1 https://web.archive.org/web/2/http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2013/2013441/tables/table_02.asp

2 http://eddataexpress.ed.gov/state-tables-main.cfm

3 http://www.corestandards.org/standards-in-your-state/

4 http://ballotpedia.org/Public_education_in_South_Dakota#cite_note-11



  1. […] This is the second in a two-part post. You can read the first part here. […]

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