In proposing zero increase in the target teacher salary that determines K-12 funding, Governor Kristi Noem is ignoring state law.
The Governor is proposing $8.9 million more for our public schools, but $7.9 million is for special ed and $1.0 million is for expected enrollment increases. Bob Mercer thus concludes that Noem isn’t breaking the law:
To understand how conservative the budget plan Governor Kristi Noem outlined Tuesday was, start with this: State law says the Legislature is supposed to increase state aid to South Dakota public school districts each year by the lesser of 3 percent or the rate of inflation.
The Republican governor didn’t ask the predominately Republican body of lawmakers to ignore the law. She instead asked them to spend the expected additional money in other ways.
…For schools the bottom line, she said, was she couldn’t recommend lawmakers give more state aid when state government starts a new budget July 1.
School districts would however see under her plan about $7.9 million more in additional special education aid and about $1 million more to help pay for about 1,000 more students expected statewide, according to Wade Pogany, executive director for Associated School Boards of South Dakota [Bob Mercer, “Governor Wants SD Lawmakers to Tap Reserve Fund amid Tight Ongoing Revenue,” KELO-TV, 2019.12.03].
But Governor Noem’s budget does break the law. SDCL 13-13-10.1 says the “index factor,” for state aid to K-12 education, must be either 3% or the inflation rate, whichever is less. The projected inflation rate in Noem’s budget in 2.0%. The $8.9 million increase Noem proposes to cover growing special ed needs and enrollment is a 2.09% increase over the state aid budgeted in FY2020. But SDCL 13-13-10.1 says that index factor must be applied not to special ed or enrollment but to the target teacher salary, the basis of the entire K-12 funding formula since the great Daugaard/Blue Ribbon reform of 2016. Noem’s budget proposes no increase in the target teacher salary; Noem’s budget thus does not comply with the law.
Wade Pogany appears to recognize that schools need to get up and fight:
“We understand and empathize with the constraints the stagnant revenue collections have placed on Gov. Noem’s budget and are appreciative of her investment in special education for the upcoming year,” Pogany said afterward in a post on the ASBSD website. “Our charge is to ensure our K-12 public schools receive the inflationary increase that is required by state law” [Mercer, 2019.12.03].
Schools, don’t wimp out on this. You have every right to go to Pierre and ask the Governor Noem and the Legislature at least follow the law. You fought hard and compromised hard in 2016 to win this formula: make Governor Noem stick to the deal.