Rounds won’t promise more school funds from Pierre

Rounds won't promise more school funds from Pierre By David Lias Many people in Vermillion no doubt were thinking of school funding last Wednesday when Gov. Mike Rounds, via telephone, was a guest on the South Dakota Public Radio program South Dakota Forum.

Judy Zwolak of Save our Schools, a citizen�s group that successfully spearheaded an opt-out in the Vermillion School District March 15, asked the governor if more state funding will be allocated to education so that future opt-out votes won�t be necessary. �I can�t really promise you that you will always have all the money that you will want to spend on education,� Rounds said. �There are, within the limitation of state taxes, a certain number of dollars that can be allocated to education each year.�

Each year, Rounds said, the Legislature must decide how it can do the most with state tax dollars.

He noted that, had Pierre done only what was required by law, school districts would have received, in the last three years, about a $90 per student increase.

�What we�ve actually had is about a $348 more per student increase in the last three years than what the basics of the law would have provided,� the governor said.

One of the challenges at the local level, he said, �is when we put money in at the state level, we also match that with local property taxes. When we put in $1,000 more in per student allocations under the existing formula, you can figure that about 94 to 95 percent of that will also be raised in local taxes as well.

�There is a split, where the state pays about 51 to 52 percent of the formula, and local taxpayers pay about 48 to 49 percent,� Rounds said. The governor favors an immediate study of school financing in the state to help answer some questions that seem to be arising, especially in recent years. �Why is it that we�re 34th in the nation in terms of support for K-12 education,� Rounds said, �and yet our salary policy for teachers is 50th in the nation? Where is the money at?�

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