Appropriators weighed in on the waivers received by school districts who did not meet one or both school finance accountability targets.
At Tuesday’s (12/5) legislative Joint Appropriations Committee meeting, appropriators unanimously approved 15 outright and 14 conditional waivers previously granted by the School Finance Accountability Board.
The mandates, which required 85 percent of the total state aid dollars be allocated for teacher pay and benefits AND 85 percent of the new revenue percentage increase schools received to be spent on certified instructional staff, were put in place by the legislature as part of the new funding formula and half-cent increase to the sales tax in 2016 to ensure an increase to teacher salaries.
“I am convinced that every one of them (school districts) had the intent to the follow the law,” Rep. Taffy Howard said.
“I think we need to vote all these (waivers) through,” Rep. Justin Cronin concurred. I do think this is a lesson for us.”
“We wanted to put teeth into (the law), but we failed because we did not specifically say what we wanted.”
In the accountability mandates’ first year of implementation there remained room for review.
“We are carving out a path,” Sen. Larry Tidemann said. “This is our first real attempt at this.”
Sen. Jim White echoed Sen. Tidemann’s sentiment as it related to the schools attempting to the meet the mandates.
“I don’t blame the schools,” Sen. White said. “This is the first run.”
Districts receiving a conditional waiver must reopen negotiations with their current certified teaching staff and include a dollar amount, which was set by the School Finance Accountability Board, in contracts by February 1, 2018. The S.D. Department of Education will review the districts’ efforts to ensure the conditions of the waiver were met.