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SD Lawmakers Mixed On Education Lawsuit Ruling

September 1, 2011, 5:05 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

SD Lawmakers Mixed On Education Lawsuit Ruling
SIOUX FALLS, SD - The South Dakota Supreme Court has issued a historic opinion on education funding, but the debate is far from over.

Thursday the Supreme Court said the state's education funding formula adequately funds education.

The decision ends a five year lawsuit against the state, but the opinion also is sending some mixed messages to lawmakers.

The education funding formula has been in place since 1997 and says that school districts should get an increase of three percent or the rate of inflation whichever is less.

"I think the lawsuit opinion that the Supreme Court released today affirms that we are adequately funding education," Senator Mark Johnston said.

Johnston is the vice-chair of the Senate Education Committee and says the ruling confirms that the current formula is the right approach to paying for public schools.

"We've got a good law in place. We just as a legislative body need to continue to listen to our stakeholders, listen to our customers and continue to provide innovative ways of delivering education, administering education and funding education so a kindergartner today will graduate from college 20 years from now," Johnston said.

Democratic Representative Marc Feinstein says the Supreme Court opinion only looked at the formula in the years leading up to the lawsuit, and didn't include the last two years when lawmakers didn't follow the formula.

In the 2010 session schools didn't receive any increase, and earlier this year the funding was cut.

"Since the funding formula got totally destroyed, totally killed, in the last two sessions of the legislature I firmly believe this outcome would have been different," Feinstein said.

And that's why Feinstein says lawmakers need to get back to the funding formula, or they'll open themselves up for a second lawsuit that they could lose.

"I think this is a wake up call to the legislators saying we have to go back to the formula and revisit it, because I believe if we do let it go I believe there will be a lawsuit and we will not be prepared. The state will not be prepared," Feinstein said.

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