The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2004 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
School financing overshadowed other education concerns in South Dakota’s 2005 legislative session, which ended March 22. The $3 billion state budget signed by Gov. Michael Rounds includes $337.7 million for K-12 schools, up by 2 percent over the current fiscal year.
Meanwhile, state funding per student will climb from $4,086 this fiscal year to $4,238 in fiscal 2006—a 3.8 percent increase.
To school districts, however, the rise feels like less than 2 percent, because lawmakers did not renew a $7.3 million “one time” payment that the state has in fact added to school budgets for each of the past two fiscal years.
The legislature also directed the state department of education to conduct a comprehensive study of school funding. An interim report to the legislature is due Dec. 1.
Mr. Rounds, a Republican, vetoed a bill that would have cut $1,000 from a four-year state scholarship that rewards students who take more-rigorous high school courses and then attend a college in South Dakota. Legislators were reacting to the rising cost of the program.
The South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship, a favorite project of the governor’s, pays $5,000 over four years to qualifying students. Many legislators fear the eventual budget impact of a greater-than-expected number of qualifying students. In the last session, the legislature budgeted for 650 recipients, but 827 students qualified for the aid.
The governor signed a separate bill to pay for the extra scholarships.