The state’s public schools are still reeling from recent
cuts to state aid to education and South Dakota school board members continue
to be concerned about being asked to do more with less, ASBSD Executive
Director Wade Pogany said Wednesday.
Pogany’s comments came during a briefing before the Senate
Education Committee. The 20-minute presentation provided a brief overview of
the association’s purpose, but focused largely on reinforcing the impact of
recent state aid cuts. Pogany also outlined ASBSD’s advocacy goals, which were
established in November by the ASBSD Delegate Assembly.
To detail the impact of last year’s $52 million cut to
public school funding, Pogany walked lawmakers through Costly Cuts: A Survey of South Dakota Schools. The report, released
by ASBSD last November, showed that schools slashed local budgets by more than
$38 million and eliminated more than 465 full time positions. Pogany also
stressed that local school boards aren’t done adjusting budgets to make up for
the loss in state aid.
“The uncertainty is not over,” Pogany said. “Please
understand: [schools] are still in a funding crisis.”
As school boards have reduced spending – cuts Pogany said
were “in many cases, pretty extreme” – they have had to rely more on reserves
and local property tax dollars to fund basic education programs. Having to use
temporary financial fixes to patch budgets, combined with the looming threat of
reductions in federal education spending, is troubling to schools that are “already
as lean as they can possibly be,” Pogany said.
“[Schools] are in an extremely deep hole,” Pogany told
legislators, adding that districts will be hard-pressed to fund existing reform
initiatives, including the conversion to new learning standards and a more
rigorous staff evaluation system. Pogany credited Gov. Daugaard for
recommending the legally required per-student student increase and for
committing funding to help implement the new Common Core Academic Standards and
Charlotte Danielson teaching framework.
“[School districts] can get the job done if they have the
resources to carry it out,” Pogany said, later adding that ASBSD will continue
to ask lawmakers to provide the regulatory flexibility necessary to implement
new state mandates at the local level.
During committee questions, Sen. Bruce Rampelberg, R-Rapid
City, questioned Pogany about the association’s position on the governor’s
Investing in Teachers Initiative, which he called a “challenge to districts.”
Pogany responded by saying the association needed time to go
through the complex proposal, which has yet to be filed in bill form, but that
ASBSD would evaluate the plan based on whether school boards were provided both
the flexibility and financial resources to implement reform.