PIERRE - State senators made clear Wednesday that at least most of them don't want to cut as deeply as Gov. Dennis Daugaard has recommended for general education aid to public schools.
The Senate sent three school-funding measures to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
One is the governor's legislation, Senate Bill 185. It seeks to change the per-student allocation from state aid and local property taxes to $4,324.14 for the 2012 school fiscal year. That would be a 10 percent reduction of $480.46 from the 2011 allocation of $4,804.60.
We still don't know what that amount should be as I stand here today, Sen. Bob Gray, R-Pierre, said.
Daugaard has noted on numerous occasions that the 10 percent cut isn't really 10 percent in the big picture, because school districts typically spend at least $2,000 to $4,000, and often more, per student in addition to the general-education funding.
Wednesday was working day 26 of the 38-day legislative session and was the last day for bills to be passed or killed in their first chamber. The vote to keep the Daugaard bill moving was 22-13.
Please continue the discussion on the other side, Rep. Deb Peters, R-Hartford, said.
The second education-funding bill passed by senators on Wednesday, sponsored by Sen. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center, would reduce general state aid to school districts by 6.4 percent.
The legislation, Senate Bill 152, would set the per-student allocation at $4,494.28, a reduction of $310.32 from the 2011 allocation.
Rhoden's method would be to set property-tax levies for owner-occupied homes and commercial properties at the same level for 2012 school funding as they are for 2011, while agricultural levies would be reduced slightly to preserve the balance required by another state law.
It represents no tax increase for anyone, Rhoden said. But Sen. Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen, laid out numbers that showed a $9 million shift of responsibility from state aid to property owners. It's a bad bill, it's a bad policy, Novstrup said.
The other challenge in Rhoden's plan is that he still needs to find $13 million of state funding for it to work as he intends. Gray noted there are $107 million of state reserves that could be tapped.
Among those supporting the Rhoden bill was Senate Democratic leader Jason Frerichs of Wilmot. It's definitely very desperate times for our schools, Frerichs said.
The third bill, Senate Bill 133, is a one-time bookkeeping maneuver that would change the monthly payment schedule used to transfer state aid to school districts. Other senators pointed out the plan needs significant technical changes for it to possibly work.
It's a concept, said Sen. Cooper Garnos, R-Presho, the Senate Education Committee chairman who inserted the plan on Tuesday in another senator's legislation. It does, I think, need a little more work.
Senators voted 26-9 to send it to the House for consideration or possibly yet another purpose.