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Sioux Falls Schools Elevate Foundation to Boost Shrinking Budgets

The Sioux Falls School District has grown more diverse in the past 20 years. Before, students of color made up less than 5 percent of the population, compared to nearly 40 percent in 2018. (apa.org)
The Sioux Falls School District has grown more diverse in the past 20 years. Before, students of color made up less than 5 percent of the population, compared to nearly 40 percent in 2018. (apa.org)
October 26, 2018

SIOUX FALLS S.D. – At the beginning of every school year, 94 percent of teachers in public schools spend close to $500 of their own money for classroom supplies, and the Sioux Falls Public Schools Education Foundation would like to change that. After many years of relying on volunteers, the Foundation has hired its first full-time employee to solicit donations to fund a variety of classroom grants.

Foundation Executive Director Allison Struck has been on the job since July. She says the nonprofit's program to offset costs for first-year teachers provides them with a $200 stipend. Her goal is to raise that amount to $500 by 2035.

"When they get into their classrooms, they need some funds to purchase posters, bulletin board materials, name tags, folders – whatever they might need to set up their classroom, that's what that $200 will provide for them," says Struck.

Nationwide, seven percent of public school teachers said they spend $1000 or more on classroom supplies annually. On average, public school teachers earned just under $60,000 last school year. The Sioux Falls average teacher pay was $50,000.

For the first time this year, Sioux Falls schools saw a student population of more than 25,000. District data show nearly half of those kids qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

Struck says many items funded by non-taxpayer dollars though the Foundation enhance the classroom experience and ensure all students have equal learning opportunities.

"The key to breaking the cycle of poverty is education, and this is just another way that we can give teachers the tools they need, so they can help all students – regardless of any barriers they're facing, both in and out of the classroom," says Struck.

Other South Dakota school districts – including Aberdeen, Rapid City and Watertown – also have foundations that raise money for public education in their communities.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD