Daugaard has been clear that he sees private education as the best choice for our students. He then uses this as a reason to reject increasing teacher's compensation.
First was House Bill 1070. This bill would have made a law requiring that special education services were made available to students under alternative education (home schooled). This was to basically say to the home school supporters, "Look at us! We agree that public schools are bad. We are here to protect you." The problem is that it would not have actually accomplished anything. As Ken Santema pointed out,
This is a bill that was probably good to table. It didn’t seem necessary.That is something that seems to be a fairly common theme of the legislature, lets throw out a lot of bills that are unnecessary instead of focusing on the issues that need addressing. However, this bill was tabled with a 14-0 vote.
The newest fight for private schools and homeschool students is coming from Senator Heineman, Rpublican from District 13. It also has co-sponsers of Ernie Otten and Isaac Latterell from District 6. Bob Mercer explains the bill at his blog and how Heineman got it onto the floor:
The state Senate agreed Friday afternoon to allow a debate next week on legislation from Sen. Phyllis Heineman, R-Sioux Falls, that would create a state-funded scholarship and grant program for non-public K-12 schools in South Dakota. The essence of SB 189 is insurance companies could donate money to a scholarship and grant organization and the donations would be counted as a 90 percent credit against premium taxes the insurance companies otherwise must pay to the state treasury. In other words, 90 cents of a premium-tax dollar could go to the scholarship and grant organization. The organization would have to report to the state Department of Legislative Audit.There are several issues with this concept.
1. The tax credit means less income for the state to help balance the books. This would mean that there would be less education dollars for public schools. This further weakens the public schools and increases the difficulties in retaining quality teachers.
2. The weakening of the public schools will actually hurt the students involved in many of the private schools. One of the speakers in supporting the bill talked about her experience at Dell Rapids St. Mary's schools. I remember that several students from St. Mary's took classes from teachers in the public schools because they could not offer access to labs and other science based classes. If a student needs special educational assistance, they will have to come to the public schools for assistance and the public school will provide it.
3. The tax dollars being lost will impact schools all over the state and not just cities/towns that offer private education. In Lennox, there is no private school in the town. They would have to drive to Sioux Falls for Sioux Falls Christian or O'Gorman. A family functioning under free and reduced lunch level will have great difficulties in affording gas and transportation since most private schools do not provide bussing from outside of the town. This means that public students in places like Lennox, Chancellor, and Worthing would be impacted but not get the access.
4. If insurance companies feel so strong about supporting private education, then why bribe them with tax credits. The businesses could step up and donate to the fund without taking away state funds. This then would allow those that want to use the program to get funding assistance to a private school to get the income.
In the testimony, the Department of Education came out to speak against the bills sharing the impact it will have on the costs for administrating the program and the impact it would have on education funding. She also pointed out that these programs did not improve any benefits academically. The Division of Insurance also spoke out against the bill due to poor panning of the bill and extra costs doing the bill. It was also pointed out that this bill would decrease the funding formula by $30 per student. Mercer even points out that the Daugaard administration is opposed to the bill.
SB 189 is a voucher program in sheep's clothing. Please urge your Senator to vote against this after it is debated on the floor. I leave you with the final paragraph from Mr. Mercer's blog post:
This proposal to allow tax credits to encourage insurance companies to pay for non-public education, and making less tax money available for public education as a result, would mark a major change in South Dakota for education policy and social policy.