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Key Education Funding Bills To Follow

February 21, 2011, 6:03 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Key Education Funding Bills To Follow
SIOUX FALLS, SD - With only 14 days left in South Dakota's legislative session, lawmakers are still trying to figure out how to fund the state's school districts. And, there are some key education funding bills waiting for lawmakers when they get back from their President's Day break that could directly impact your school district.

The first bill is House Bill 1203 The bill would open the door for school districts to use their capital outlay money to pay for operating expenses. Right now, the two funds are separate. So, that means the money districts use to pay for building projects and busses could also help pay teachers' salaries and benefits.

The other three key bills are in the Senate. Senate Bill 185 is pretty basic. It's the governor's entire 10 percent cut proposal and would reduce education funding in the state by $480 per student. The other two bills would soften the blow of that proposal.

Senate Bill 126 wouldn't cut education funding at all. Instead, it would freeze funding at it's current level for the next two years. That would save the state $10 million, and money from reserves would be set aside in a trust fund to pay the schools back later. But, the bill would also freeze schools from local property tax opt outs. However, the bill falls millions of dollars short of saving the state the money it needs.

The final bill is a compromise of sorts. Right now the state pays the same amount for education funding as you pay out of your property taxes, and by law the two are married. So, with the governor's cut your property taxes would actually go down. In Senate Bill 152, Senator Larry Rhoden proposes cutting the state's portion of funding for schools but leaving property taxes at the same level. While it wouldn't change anything for property owners, it would still save the state the money it needs, and allow the state to cut school funding by six percent instead of ten percent.

It's a bill that has gained support from school districts such as Sioux Falls, but we will have to wait to find out whether it survives the last three weeks of the session.

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