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Report: South Dakota Drops the Ball on Education Policies

While unemployment benefit access has improved for low-income South Dakota families, a new scorecard shows the state lagging behind in other areas. (iStockphoto)
While unemployment benefit access has improved for low-income South Dakota families, a new scorecard shows the state lagging behind in other areas. (iStockphoto)
February 2, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. - Most economists agree the U.S. is recovering from the Great Recession, but they also find many families are still struggling financially.

The latest scorecard from the nonprofit Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) shows South Dakota's economic climate is a mixed bag.

Kasey Wiedrich, CFED's director of applied research, says the state ranks near the bottom of the pack at 49th, mainly because of South Dakota's lack of policies to help the struggling education system.

She says there's a lot the state can do to help.

"Providing funding for early childhood education, adequate levels of financial aid for post-secondary education, supporting financial education being taught in schools."

According to the CFED Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, only about 28 percent of South Dakota adults have a college degree, which is two-points below the national average. However, the state earned good marks for having a low rate of income inequality.

Other good grades on the scorecard include South Dakota's policies that expand eligibility for unemployment benefits. However, for families of color, the report notes stark disparities. It shows African-American and Latino homes are far more likely to live below the poverty line than white homes in the state.

Wiedrich says this mirrors other trends, such as whites being twice as likely to own a businesses in South Dakota than minorities.

"These disparate outcomes don't only speak to sort of the history of exclusion from the financial mainstream, and discrimination that households of color have faced, but also speaks to future opportunities," says Wiedrich.

The scorecard also suggests South Dakota lawmakers could help further close the wealth gap by putting more aggressive caps on interest rates of payday lenders, and enacting state child and child-care tax credits.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - SD