Requests for PSA Increases Defeated
Lawmakers in control of drafting the state’s general budget Friday defeated two amendments to increase school funding through the per-student allocation. Governor Dennis Daugaard proposed a 3 percent across the board budget increase for education, but some lawmakers are fighting for more. The argument stems from schools’ reserves.
Representative Susan Wismer asked the Joint Appropriations committee for a .87 percent increase in the PSA. She says the argument that school districts have high reserves and therefore don’t need any more money is a red herring. Wismer says those reserves aren’t leftover money. She compares it to looking at a person’s bank account the day they get paid, but not taking into consideration the bills due the next day.
“We all say education is our first priority. Every time we take a vote that puts something else in front of education, we’re betraying the voters who believed us when we told them education was our first priority. This amendment is just a small attempt to get education back to where they were five years ago. That’s a very pitiful effort, but it’s a conversation that I’ve been very proud to carry on,” Wismer says.
Not all members of Joint Appropriations agree. Senator Phyllis Heineman says schools’ reserves are examined on the same date every year, which allows the state to track trends and make decisions based off those comparisons.
“While they are now, I think the General Fund I am looking at now as of June 30, 2013, the General Fund Reserve for K-12 schools was about $250 million. True, they may still have some commitments to make out of that, but again, that’s taken every year and the prior year was $230 (million). So, it is something we need to continue to keep looking at. Those again are tax payer dollars that are for the general operations of the schools,” Heineman says.
Members of Joint Appropriations tabled Wismer’s request. They also tabled another request for a .4 percent per student allocation increase.