Governor Dennis Daugaard gave his take on education funding through proposals he announced during his State of the State address earlier this month. On Thursday, state Democrats gave their own proposal.
While they don't necessarily disagree with everything the governor is proposing, Democrats believe funding needs to be a top priority.
Education funding has been a party battle for the last few years, and this year is no different.
Daugaard laid out his plans to increase funding slightly, but also use a merit-based program for teachers, rewarding the top twenty percent in each district.
Three top South Dakota Democrats announced their party's plan Thursday, which focuses on per pupil funding. The proposal includes setting a funding goal equal to the average spent by neighboring states, a goal they want to reach within four years. They say this would equal a substantial increase in per student spending.
Democrats also want state aid to schools to rise or fall with overall state revenues with a cap of six percent. Representative Larry Lucas says the state has fallen behind and needs to set a target.
"I think it would give them hope for the future where they could restore some of the cuts that they've had to make in the current school year and maybe to give teacher salary increases and salary increases for their support personnel," Lucas said.
Daugaard, a Republican, says he disagrees with the Democrats plan because he doesn't believe more money will equal better student achievement. He says that's been proven through test scores over several years.
"It seems to me like all that is is a question of how much shall we spend. Again, it proceeds from the assumption that by spending more you have better achievement, but history has shown us that's not true," Daugaard said.
Instead, the governor believes teachers are the key to better student results, and that's where the money should be put through merit pay bonuses. Democrats say they're not necessarily opposed to a teacher reward system, but they say the governor's plan won't work.
In a statement released Wednesday, the Governor said he's not set on a specific merit pay plan for teachers. He says he's open to other ideas so long as resources go towards that.