Education Plans Still Alive In Pierre

Feb 19, 2016

Two bills that establish new guidelines for education funding in South Dakota move on to full consideration in the State Senate. This happened as members of the state House approve a reconsideration of a defeated sales tax increase to pay for the programs.

A bill increasing the sales tax one half of one penny intends to supply money for higher teacher pay and property tax relief. House Bill 1182 died Thursday in the State House of Representatives. A day later, State Representative Lee Schoenbeck implored the chamber to hear the measure again.

"And we have enough time – and we get a per diem anyway, so we’re going to be here – to take the time to vote, to debate, consider, meet with our constituents over the weekend and vote on this bill again on Monday. It lost by one vote," Schoenbeck says. "I have every belief that, with further opportunity for reflection about what this means to the communities and the children in our state, that the body will in fact reach an opposite conclusion on Monday. I would encourage you to vote yes today to reconsider the vote and calendar the bill."

A majority of representatives voted to support another discussion and vote on the sales tax hike.

Meanwhile two bills that lay out exactly how South Dakota can use funds from the increase survived their first hearing in committee. Tony VenHuizen is the governor’s chief of staff.

"The real functional change that we’re looking to make in education funding and in the schools in our state are a consequence of Senate Bill 133 and then the next bill that you’ll be hearing," VenHuizen says. "The House bill is paying the bill, but these are the two real policy bills that get to the question of, ‘How are we going to make a positive change?’"

State Affairs committee members voted unanimously on both Senate Bill 131 and Senate Bill 133. The measures establish a target teacher salary, change the funding formula to a ratio instead of a dollar amount per student, and fund incentives for mentoring and supporting teachers.

Both bills now move to the State Senate floor.