The public schools enroll 131,000 students: 77% White, 11% Native American, and 5% Latino, with 40% living in poverty, and 3% learning English. The State spends $8,630 per pupil. (Most recent NCES data)
“The stability of a republican form of government depending on the morality and intelligence of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature to establish and maintain a general and uniform system of public schools wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all; and to adopt all suitable means to secure to the people the advantages and opportunities of education.” S.D. Const. art. VIII, § 1.
“The Legislature shall make such provision by general taxation and by authorizing the school corporations to levy such additional taxes as with the income from the permanent school fund shall secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the state.” S.D. Const. art. VIII, § 15.
In 1995, in Bezdicheck v. State, a State trial court held that the constitution does not require equal levels of per-pupil spending. Plaintiffs did not appeal.
In 2009, in Olson v. Guindon, the South Dakota Supreme Court held that school districts have standing to seek a declaratory judgment on the constitutionality of the school funding system, and districts may fund such litigation. The Court also wrote: “It is undisputed that public education is of utmost importance to the state and its citizens.”
In 2011, in Davis v. State, the South Dakota Supreme Court held that “the South Dakota Constitution guarantees all South Dakota children a free, adequate, and quality public education which provides them with the opportunity to prepare for their future roles as citizens, participants in the political system, and competitors both economically and intellectually.”
The Court also wrote that “plaintiffs’ evidence raises serious questions about [the funding system]…and that some districts struggle to provide adequate facilities and qualified teachers [but] we are unable to conclude that the education funding system (as it existed at the time of trial) fails to correlate to actual costs or with adequate student achievement to the point of declaring the system unconstitutional.”