Education Department meets with Appropriations Committee
By Sen. Tom Jones
Our South Dakota State Department of Education gave three days of testimony to the State Joint Appropriations Committee this past week. The information they gave exhibited the care they have for our K-12 students and our four state technical schools. Their presentation began with the Presidents of our technical schools located in Watertown, Sioux Falls, Mitchell, and Rapid City.
We can be proud of the success these schools have enjoyed, including the percentage (71) of their students graduate in three years or less. They are number one in the nation. Currently, there are 6,460 students enrolled in one of these schools.
A common problem our technical schools have along with our other facets of education in South Dakota is the increased burden on students for paying their education bills. South Dakota ranks last among the seven surrounding states in the percentage of state and local aid we provide for them. South Dakota provides 28 percent; Minnesota – 33 percent; Iowa – 35 percent; Montana – 35 percent; North Dakota – 34 percent; Wyoming – 58 percent; and Nebraska – 59 percent.
The second and third days K-12 was addressed by our Secretary of Education and her staff. Our total student population across the state is estimated to be 131,250 for the 2014-15 school year. Issues discussed included: teacher shortages and opt-outs. Let me give you an example of each. A superintendent told me that he had two openings this past fall for teachers. He had two applicants. He also said he was very fortunate that both applicants were good ones. Concerning opt-outs; 66 of our 151 school districts passed opt-outs. That’s 44 percent. That does not include districts that failed in their attempt or attempts for an opt-out. Remember, when an opt-out is passed the amount becomes the sole responsibility of the taxpayers in their district. When the state school funding formula was initiated (during Gov. Janklow’s terms), it was to come closer to equalizing funding for every student.
Dual credits were explained in length. It simply means that if you take a college-level course in high school, students can earn both high school and college credit from one of our four state universities for the same course. The cost for the college credit is $40.00 per credit hour, which is considerably less than the normal charge. The average cost in college is $300.00 per credit hour.
It’s also my understanding that if a student takes the ACT and doesn’t quite score well enough to enter college without taking remedial courses, he or she can take these classes in addition to their regular classes during their senior year of high school at no cost. This can save time and money when they enter college.
I hope the above two paragraphs gives some insight to several of you.
On Friday, the Senate Appropriations listened to several bill hearings. SB 27 allowed up to $500,000 transfer from the Natural Resources Fund to the State Conservation Commission. It passed 9-0. SB 31 authorized a $94,000 payment for reimbursement for a rural physician who has completed the needed requirements. It passed 9-0. Finally SB 32 passed 9-0 a transfer of $1,900,000 of General Funds and $21,100,000 of Federal monies for the National Guard Armory construction and land in Watertown.
Once again, if you have questions or would like to contact me concerning a bill, my e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.