A small step in the legislative process was a big win for school districts on Wednesday.
“Schools are not in the business to make money. We’re in the business to educate children. We need your help,” ASBSD Executive Director Wade Pogany said. “Restoring the per-student allocation to $4,805 is available this session.”
Pogany, who was among an impactful group testifying in favor of the bill, said schools are grateful for the three percent increase to the PSA, which would raise the state funding level from $4,626 to $4,764, proposed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
Pogany noted the increase to $4,805 would require a 0.8 percent increase, which requires only a $5.37 million ($41 more per-student) in ongoing funds from the state. It’s an increase that falls short of what local tax payers have incurred in opt-outs since the 8.6 percent cut to state aid in 2011.
Since 2011, districts have been forced to seek nearly $9 million in opt-outs – from $17.4 million in 2011 to $26.1 million in 2013 – to make up for the state funding shortfall.
“The only option (school boards) have is to go to the taxpayers,” Pogany said. “The increase burden to tax payers is already skyrocketing.”
Joy Smolnisky, Executive Director of the South Dakota Budget and Policy Institute, testified that South Dakota is 53 percent lower in state funding per-student than neighboring states.
Limited funding has cost districts employees, as well. School Administrators of South Dakota Executive Director Rob Monson testified that districts are down 500 FTE’s since the cuts were implemented and districts are struggling to fill open teaching positions and, more troubling yet, find adequate teachers to fill those open positions.
In testimony opposing the bill, Jim Terwilliger of the South Dakota Bureau of Finance and Management office said the increase would require ongoing funds not budgeted for in fiscal year 2015.
Pogany urged the committee to keep the bill alive to see what options may be available later this session.
“There’s a lot of days ahead of us yet in this session,” Pogany testified. “Keep the discussion going.”