The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2005 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.
Gov. Michael Rounds has signed a $3.2 billion budget bill for fiscal 2007 that includes a so-called “sparsity formula,” which distributes $1.5 million to lightly populated school districts that are too far from neighboring communities to consolidate operations.
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For other districts, the state continues to offer incentives to consolidate: For the first year after a consolidation takes place, the state will pay $300 per student for up to 400 students in each merged school district. The second year after the consolidation, the district receives $200 per student; the third year, it’s $100.
Those amounts are on top of $338.9 million in aid for schools from all state sources in the 2007 budget. The total amount is only slightly higher than last year’s $337.7 million figure because the state’s K-12 enrollment declined by about 1,000 students, from 121,373 in 2005.
State per-student aid will provide $4,365 next year, or $127 more per student than in fiscal 2006.
The budget includes $6.5 million in new money for educational enhancements to help school districts meet their state “adequate yearly progress” targets in reading and mathematics under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Districts that have met their targets receive their shares of the money automatically; districts that fell short of their targets must submit plans showing how the money would address their performance gaps.
Before the session closed March 22, the Republican-controlled legislature also approved Gov. Rounds’ request to create a Virtual High School Advisory Council, which will study and recommend policies to deliver distance education in South Dakota. It also passed his plan to make kindergarten mandatory for all children ages 5 or 6, by July 2010.
Gov. Rounds, a Republican who faces several prospective Democratic challengers in seeking a second term in November, has announced that he will focus his campaign on his accomplishments in education.
But legislators turned down several of Mr. Rounds’ education proposals, notably $3.5 million to districts for developing incentives for teachers, and a requirement that students attend school until age 18.
A version of this article appeared in the May 10, 2006 edition of Education Week