The fervor surrounding school funding had been building.
It started in 2011 when the state handed down funding cuts to balance the budget and progressed each year after. During the 2013 legislative interim when the legislature commissioned a school funding study details of an oncoming crisis were discussed.
School districts were losing great teachers to other professions and new, qualified candidates were few. Districts were also turning to their tax payers to help stem the tide of growing costs that couldn’t be fended off with provided aid. Schools needed the help of legislators.
And, all the while, our state’s Representatives and Senators were listening.
“I think this (legislative) body knows we have a crisis now. We’ve created a problem,” Rep. Bernie Hunhoff said. “This is…a step in the right direction.”
On unanimous votes in both chambers, the Senate and House passed a bill to provide an additional $2.2 million in state aid for districts. Senate Bill 188 provides a 3.35 percent increase to the per-student allocation – the first such increase above three percent since 2008.
The increase will set the per-student allocation at approximately $4,781 for the 2014-15 school year.
“We’re grateful for the commitment to schools shown by the legislature through this increase,” ASBSD Executive Director Wade Pogany said. “We know not all our district’s funding problems are solved yet, but the legislature and governor have set a promising direction.”
The intent of legislators is that the additional dollars be used to increase teacher pay.
Sen. Bill Van Gerpen, who introduced the 3.35 percent amendment, said there will be a “letter of intent” that goes along with the additional dollars requesting they be put towards teacher pay increases.
“I think it sends a message…that we are concerned with teacher pay,” Sen. Tim Rave said.
SB 188 will not require a change to property tax levies because the state solely provides funding of any amount above three percent.
State law requires an increase in funding of three percent or the change in CPI-W, whichever is less, and the CPI-W change came in at 1.6 percent. In December, Gov. Dennis Daugaard proposed a three percent increase in state aid.
“Schools are getting more than double what was required by law and we’re thankful Gov. Daugaard took that first step to go above and beyond the law and propose three percent,” Pogany said.
ASBSD advocated for the PSA to be set at $4,805 – a 3.87 percent increase that would have cost the state $5.3 million – throughout session.
Pogany said gratitude for the increase should not be tempered.
“We asked for additional, ongoing dollars for schools and we’re happy with the results,” he said.
Results most felt showed the schools’ concerns were heard.
“The problem was seen in all of our schools,” Sen. Chuck Welke said. “(It’s) nice to know that you did hear us about the need.”