South Dakota politicians consider education bills

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February 27, 2013

South Dakota

By Jennifer Springer

PIERRE, South Dakota: Politicians in both the Senate and the House have been considering a number of education proposals aimed at increasing funding at various levels in the state.[1][2]

Senator Tim Rave (R) said final state revenues will be reported by the end of the month.[2] That will let lawmakers know how much they can spend on one-time appropriations in the upcoming budget.[3]

One of the possible bills is Senate Bill 136, which would send extra money to all K-12 public schools through the state aid formula.[2] The Senate voted 33-0 to keep SB136 alive.[2]

The House Education Committee also endorsed Senate Bill 76 on February 25 on a 13-1 vote, sending it to the House Appropriators.[1] The Senate voted 29-4 to put put additional funding into the seven Education Service Agencies, which help school districts with data analysis, teacher training and Department of Education initiatives. Since being created in 2004, ESAs have not received much funding by the state in recent years, relying substantially on grants and payments from individual school districts.[1]

Senate Bill 159, which would send additional state money to schools with English language learner students, passed the Senate on a 31-2 vote February 20. Sen. Jim White (R) said 77 of the state’s 151 public school districts have ELL students.[1] His original bill, which passed a committee on a 7-0 vote, would have provided an additional 25 percent of funding per student per year, or about $1,100. He said that’s about what it actually costs schools to serve those students. However, White amended the bill to remove the 25 percent figure.[2]

Senate Bill 237, if passed, would make South Dakota the last state in the country to offer need-based college scholarships. The House Education Committee voted 13-1 to advance the proposal to House Appropriations.[1]

The source of the funds would be a portion of the $26 million in one-time funds Gov. Dennis Daugaard says the Legislature can decide where to appropriate.[1] Proponents of the bill say that a $5 million trust fund would provide awards of $500 to $2,000 to about 900 students per year.[1] Colleges would then have to match the state funds 3 to 1.

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