South Dakota’s school kids lost on the floor of the House today when Republicans voted for the administration’s 8.6% cut to education (SB 152).
Democrats argued that the governor’s extremist budget will raise property taxes, hurt economic development and drastically underfund schools.
“At best this is just a shift of school funding from state responsibility to property taxpayers,” said Rep. Bernie Hunhoff, the Democratic House Leader, who said in the House debate that homeowners, businesses and farms already rank 15th in the nation in taxes paid to schools while the state’s share ranks at 49th in the nation.
Hunhoff said the state’s long term effort to shift its responsibility for school funding has accelerated under the Daugaard administration. “Our K-12 schools received 39% of the general fund just eight years ago,” he said, “and now that figure has dropped to 31%. We’re going the wrong direction in a hurry.”
Rep. Mitch Fargen, assistant Democratic leader in the House, noted that SB 152 freezes the property tax levies for schools. “But the drastic cut in per pupil spending from $4,804 to $4389 will cause some districts to opt out of the school formula. Other districts won’t have enough property wealth to opt out, or the voters will balk. Soon we’ll have great disparities in school funding and the entire formula which we’ve worked so hard to implement will be unworkable.”
State Democratic Chairman Ben Nesselhuf commended the 18 Democrats and three Republicans who sought to amend the bill. He noted that a kindergartener may graduate from high school before state spending returns to current levels.
“Despite amendments offered by Democrats to restore funding to our children’s education, Republicans vowed to keep the burden of our budget crisis on our children and our local communities. A solution that still cuts education funding by 8.6% instead of 10% is not a solution; it’s part of a larger problem of band aids and half measures that hurt our children,” Nesselhuf said.
Rep. Marc Feinstein (D-Sioux Falls) introduced an amendment to SB 152 on the House floor to fully restore funding to education this year. Republicans killed the amendment on a party line vote, with just three Republicans joining the Democrats on voting for the amendment.
Nesselhuf concluded, “Republicans may claim success at mitigating cuts to education, but our children and our local communities suffered major defeats today.”
The South Dakota House of Representatives voted in favor of SB 152, 47 to 21.
“Democrats and some Republicans still have a plan to keep education funding at current levels and close the budget deficit over two years by using some of the taxpayers’ reserves, allocating accelerated earnings from trust funds and eliminating government waste. Instead the Governor’s Tea party style budget cuts are creating a bigger mess than existed before he took office,” stated Rep. Mitch Fargen