ANSWER: Instructional cost-per-student is based on two factors:
1. Teacher salary and benefits.
2. Number of pupils there are per teacher.
The average classroom size among our neighboring states is 13.5 children per classroom – ranging from a low of 11.4 in North Dakota to a high of 15.9 in Minnesota.
South Dakota averages 13.7 pupils per teacher. Although South Dakota’s class size is slightly higher than its neighbors, its cost per student for instruction is lower because we have much lower teacher salaries.
The nine states that have lower instructional costs than South Dakota all have larger classroom sizes, ranging from 14.7 in Texas to 22.8 in Utah.
If the classroom sizes in these nine states were comparable to South Dakota’s classroom size (13.7), the per-student-instructional cost would be higher in every state except Oklahoma.
Data Source: http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d12/tables/dt12_078.asp
Feb 9, 2015 Correction: Original publication stated “Total instructional cost-per-student can be low if moderately paid teachers have large class sizes or if low paid teachers have smaller class sizes.” The missing word “higher” was added to correct the statement to read “Total instructional cost-per-student can be low if moderately paid teachers have large class sizes, or higher if low paid teachers have smaller class sizes.”