S.D. legislators hear schools’ COVID requests

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The executive director for Associated School Boards of South Dakota told state lawmakers Wednesday he doesn’t know how much more money K-12 schools will need to deal with COVID-19.

Just as importantly, Wade Pogany said insurers won’t protect South Dakota schools if there are COVID-19 lawsuits and he asked the Legislature to grant immunity to schools if Congress doesn’t act first.

“Moving forward, we don’t know what we don’t know,” he said.

Pogany was one of about one dozen witnesses who testified Wednesday morning at a special meeting of the Joint Education Committee. The purpose was to hear from officials and citizens about what more is needed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

The Legislature’s Executive Board scheduled five committee meetings about COVID-19 funding and policies this month. The panels will make suggestions to the Interim Appropriations Committee for its September 30 meeting.

The appropriators met September 14 to review Governor Kristi Noem’s framework for distributing up to $400 million of federal COVID-19 aid.

The education committee decided Wednesday to suggest:

— An additional $200 per student to help schools offset teachers’ COVID-19 cleaning expenses.

— Additional financial aid for school cooperatives.

— Letting schools use the higher enrollment figure from either 2019 or 2020.

— Providing money to families who enroll students in alternative education settings such as home schools.

The governor has said she would consider calling a special session of the Legislature if Congress doesn’t agree on extending the December 30 deadline for state governments to contract their COVID-19 federal aid. South Dakota received $1.25 billion from Congress, plus millions of dollars in direct-targeted aid. The Legislature could also call itself into special session, with two-thirds of the members of each chamber signing a petition.

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