Legislators approve increase in funding for schools

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Legislators approve increase in funding for schools

South Dakota public schools will NOT take a cut in funding and will receive a 0.3 percent increase in state aid for the 2017-18 school year.


Senate and House members overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 35, which provides 0.3 percent increase in funding for the general and special education funds, raises levies to coincide with the increase, sets the average teacher salary target at 48,645 and increases the overhead rate for additional salary and benefit costs.


The bill heads to Gov. Dennis Daugaard for review and signature, which is expected.


“This has been a long journey to get to the increase and we’re thankful for the work of the appropriators to find dollars in the budget for schools and for Representatives and Senators in supporting the obligation to the index factor prescribed in state law,” ASBSD Executive Director Wade Pogany said.


Just a few days after SB 35 looked as though it may include no increase in funding for schools due to decreased revenue, legislative appropriators reopened revenue projections to add approximately $11 million to the fiscal year 2018 budget in order to provide a 0.3 percent increase in funding to schools and Medicaid providers and a similar increase to cover health insurance costs for state employees.


“We had some tough decisions to make,” Sen. Larry Tidemann, Chair of the Joint Appropriations Committee, said.


The 0.3 percent increase for schools equates to $2.2 million, which will be included in Senate Bill 178, the state’s general fund bill.


Following the appropriators adoption of the updated funding figures, a legislative conference committee convened on SB 35 and amended the bill to include the 0.3 percent increase in funding for the general fund of school districts, as well as the same increase for special education. The increase to special education comes in lieu of Senate Bill 33, which was previously passed and provided no increase.


On a 6-0 vote, conference committee members approved SB 35, which, in its adjustment of the target teacher salary to $48,645, installed a clause to have the figure increased each subsequent fiscal year by the index factor and increased the overhead costs figure by four-hundredths percent.


Upon approving SB 35, conference committee members addressed concerns over the removal of clause splitting up the proceeds of the half-cent sales tax, which would have cost schools upwards of $5 million.


Sen. Tidemann noted during the committee hearing that the removal of the clause holds school harmless, as the clauses inclusion would have resulted in a cut because revenue from the half-cent did not meet the level required. He added that amendments to SB 35 maintain the base of state aid in the future.


On the Senate floor, Sen. Billie Sutton said “it’s very important that the public knows and understands” that schools are not receiving a cut based on the removal of the clause and added that not striking the section would have created “a real problem” for schools.


The sentiments of Senators Sutton and Tidemann were echoed on the House floor where Rep. Dan Ahlers said not removing the clause would have meant schools would have “gone backwards” in funding.


“We actually increased funding to education,” Rep. Ahlers said.


It’s an increase that comes following hard work by legislators to counter a bleak outlook in revenue.


“We really do need to be thankful for the efforts of our legislators,” Pogany said. “They dug in and found dollars we weren’t sure were going to be there.”


“They met the index factor in state law and, a year after a historic session, schools and teachers aren’t going to stay flat, they’re going to get additional dollars.”


The main run of legislative session came to an end today (3/10) with only veto day left on Monday, March 27. There are no vetoes expected to affect public schools.


For updates on legislative and education issues, matters and meeting, check the ASBSD BlogTwitter feed and Bill Tracker pages.

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