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State Aid Increase Provides Extra Cushion For Schools

March 18, 2014, 7:05 AM by Brittany Larson

State Aid Increase Provides Extra Cushion For Schools

After many cuts in school districts budgets over the years, things seem to be changing. The increase in state aid will benefit students and teachers starting next year.

"It's exciting first of all, after years of a freeze and very little increases it's just nice to feel appreciated," Baltic Middle School Teacher Tara Rollinger said.

Rollinger is a Language Arts teacher, like many teachers across the state, she's happy an increase in state aid has been approved.

"Having our pay frozen for years is painful but more importantly, we weren't able to get things to our students that they really needed, whether it was textbooks or the technology that we think we need, additional classes that we weren't able to offer. Those things hurt and they hurt students and that's really what it comes down to," Rollinger said.

By law, the state was required to give them the rate of inflation, which is 1.6 percent.

"There's a problem with school funding and something needs to be done with it. If we would have just stuck with the 1.6 percent inflationary, schools would have really been in trouble. So I think there is that recognition and hopefully this is the start," Baltic Principal Bob Sittig said.

An Appropriations Committee voted unanimously to pass the $4.3 billion state budget. The extra money would be on top of the three percent in state aid recommended by South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard.

"Typically, how it has worked the last couple of years is that it comes down to the last revenue forecast by the state, which happens the last week of the session and comes down to the final day when they figure out how much money they are going to have to figure out where best to put that money," Sittig said.

Last year, Rollinger asked permission to work part-time because she wanted to spend more time at home with her kids. This gave the school district an extra cushion in their budget.  

"I went to working 70-percent time. I don't think they would have gone and cut anybody necessarily because this allowed them to cut a little bit of money for the school year," Rollinger said.

The budget would give school districts an extra $2.2 million in state aid next year. The extra $16.72 per student would be used to give teachers a pay raise. Each teacher would get an average pay raise of about $230.

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