S.D. Package Provides Extra $16.8 Million for Schools
The South Dakota legislature was poised late last week to give final approval to a package of education reforms that includes an additional $16.8 million for school districts.
As proposed by Gov. George S. Mickelson, the legislation provides $9.7 million to increase by about $1,100 each the salaries of South Dakota's teachers, who currently are the lowest-paid in the nation.
Funding for the package will come from a $16.8-million revenue windfall realized through economic growth.
The measure also includes additional spending for special education, secondary and postsecondary vocational education, and a special program designed to encourage dropouts to resume their education.
Members of a House-Senate con4ference committee worked last week to fine-tune sections of the bill that provide a formula for redistributing $800,000 in grant funds to districts experiencing rapid enrollment growth.
The measure was then expected to be forwarded to the House for final approval. Representative Donald J. Ham, chairman of the House education committee, said he expected easy final passage for the bill, which the House had approved by a 66-to-2 vote this month.
The bill also passed the Senate by an overwhelming margin. Before approving the bill, however, senators staged a sharp debate in which some lawmakers unsuccessfully argued against earmarking the extra revenues for specific programs.
Critics of the bill's approach argued instead that the additional money should be placed in the general state-aid fund, so that local school districts could spend it as they saw fit.
Also during Senate action on the bill, Elmer A. Bietz, chairman of the education committee, amended a provision that would have allowed high-school seniors to take up to two courses per semester at private colleges at state expense.
Mr. Bietz argued that the provision could present a constitutional problem by allowing state funds to go to private religious colleges.
He won approval of an amendment to eliminate state funding of the program, thus requiring students to pay for such courses themselves. His amendment also expanded the program to include high-school juniors.--p.s.