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Lawmakers urged to increase school funding in South Dakota

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June 28, 2013

South Dakota

By Jennifer Springer

PIERRE, South Dakota: Officials representing various school districts across the state urged a legislative panel within the Legislature's Education Funding Formula Study Committee on June 19, 2013 to consider recommending a boost in state financial aid to schools, not just changes in the way money is divided among school districts.[1][2]

School officials reason that they have not recovered from budget cuts made by Gov. Dennis Daugaard and the Legislature two years ago to help balance the state budget.[2]

South Dakota law requires that state aid to schools increase each year by the level of inflation, up to a maximum of 3 percent a year.[2] The Legislature in some years has made the choice to give schools extra money that is not built into the base used to calculate future increases, but it also gave no increase in 2010 and cut aid in 2011 when the sluggish economy limited state tax collections.[1]

The funding formula requires that each school district's general fund budget spend the same amount per student from a combination of local property taxes and state aid, a total of $4,626 next year. After a school district collects property taxes using a standard statewide levy, it receives enough state aid to bring total spending for general operations up to the required level per student. Under the forumula, small schools get extra state aid.[2]

Joy Smolnisky of the South Dakota Budget and Policy Project, a nonprofit organization that studies budget issues, said school districts in the state get about the same amount of funding from property taxes as those in surrounding states.[2] However, state funding per student in South Dakota is significantly lower than in surrounding states, she said. The state's share of school funding was about $3,000 per student in 2011, about half the average state spending in surrounding states, Smolnisky said.[2]

The Education Funding Formula Study Committee plans to meet again on July 29-30, 2013.[2]

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