Members of Senate Education voted 5-2 Tuesday to turn away
legislation aimed at reducing per-student aid for students who attend school
outside his or her resident district.
Senate Bill 85 proposes a change to the way open-enrolled
students are funded. If a student open-enrolls to a district that receives the
small school adjustment, the per-student allocation for that child would be
based on the resident district’s fall enrollment.
Sen. Deb Peters, R-Hartford, tried to convince lawmakers
that SB 85 would restore fairness to the formula and save taxpayers $1.1
million. She called on lawmakers to support the bill and to put a stop to
schools receiving “bonus” money and to ensure students are “switching schools
for the right reasons.”
Avon Superintendent Tom Culver and Elkton Superintendent
Tony Simons lined up in opposition to the legislation. The two administrators
stressed to lawmakers that parents and students are making a choice to attend a
smaller school. They also detailed the financial hardship the measure would
cause in their districts.
While several committee members credited Sen. Peters for
making a strong case for the bill, lawmakers opted to kill the bill. Sen. Todd
Schlekeway, R-Sioux Falls, told lawmakers that he hopes action on another bill
regulating busing would work to accomplish the goals of Senate Bill 85.
The discussion on the bill frustrated Sen. Mark Johnston,
R-Sioux Falls. He called for educators and lawmakers to work together to update
the state’s struggling school finance system, which he said dates back to the
1950s. Budget battles have legislators “vapor-locked,” he said, which prevents
real discussions about education funding reform from happening.