Education Debate Heats Up

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The education debate is starting to heat up. This week Governor Dennis Daugaard filed three bills that would implement his reform plans. The governor’s proposals would increase the state sales tax from 4% to 4.5% to raise teacher salaries from the current status of 51st place in the nation and would provide property tax relief

The proposal would raise $107 million annually in new revenue, of which schools would receive $67.4 million. The $40 million balance would go back to taxpayers as a 12% decrease in property taxes.

The District 4 counties of Grant, Brookings, Deuel, and Codington, property tax decreases would save agricultural property owners $7 million, owner-occupied property owners $13.9 million, and commercial property owners $19.1 million.

For any type of tax increase to occur, a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate is required. That’s a high bar to reach regardless of the issue and, frankly, given the wide diversity of legislative opinions and philosophies, I am not overly optimistic this will pass. Alternatively, several other education bills have been proposed that only require a simple majority to pass.

If the schedule plays out like it is supposed to, we should know by Wednesday, February 10 if the Governor’s funding bill has enough support to pass in the House and move to the Senate. If not, I expect one of the legislative compromise proposals that only require a majority vote to pass will begin to move. I believe the vast majority of legislators are united in a commitment to increase teacher pay in some way.

Other Hot Topics Discussed Last Week Capture

Sale of Human Fetal Body Parts The full Senate approved a bill that would prohibit the sale of human fetal body parts in South Dakota and make any violation a Class 6 felony, carrying up to a two-year prison sentence. The bill now moves to the House for consideration.

Meningitis Vaccination This bill would add meningitis to the list of immunizations children must have to enter school, unless they are exempt via certification from a physician or by religious exemption. The bill passed in the full Senate 23-10 and passed 7-6 in the House Health Committee. The bill pits the freedoms of parents against public health rights. I voted against the bill in committee as I didn’t believe the incidence rate of four cases per year warranted vaccinating 125,000 South Dakota school-age children. The bill will come to the House floor this week for further debate.

Restricting Abortions After an Unborn Baby Can Feel Pain South Dakota took its first step to join 12 other states that protect unborn children from abortion once they are capable of feeling pain. The law would add pain-capability as a measure of humanity warranting legal recognition. Members of the Senate Health Committee passed it with a 5-2 vote.

Transfer of Alcohol Funds to Counties Under the proposal, counties would receive a 25% share of the alcohol beverages fund that is currently split between cities and the state. This amounts to an additional $3.8 million to counties, including $124,624 to Brookings County, $108,257 to Codington County, $29,279 to Deuel County, and $39,615 to Grant County. The bill passed the Senate 28-5 and 13-0 in the House committee. It now moves to the House floor.

Senator Betty Olsen and I discuss my veteran's bill. Photo by Bob Mercer.

Senator Betty Olsen and I discuss my veteran’s bill. Photo by Bob Mercer.

Veteran’s Preference, Teacher Re-certification and Student Privacy The three bills I am sponsoring continue to move through the legislature. My bill to clarify  veteran’s preference benefits passed through the House without a dissenting vote and this week cleared the Senate Commerce Committee 7-0. It now heads to the Senate floor.

My bill to provide a discount to teachers taking online re-certification classes from a state institution passed unanimously through the House Education Committee and now heads to the Appropriations Committee.

Last, my bill to require student privacy in public school restrooms, showers and changing rooms in scheduled to be heard on Thursday, February 11 in the Senate Education Committee. Last week it passed out of the House on a 58-10 vote. The primary purpose of the bill is to protect the physical privacy of students from having to expose themselves, or be exposed to others, when in a state of undress or nakedness while at school or school functions. Under this bill, biological boys and girls would be required to shower separately, use separate locker rooms and separate restrooms in South Dakota public schools or public school events.

Once again, thank you for the opportunity to serve you. Please keep in touch with me about the issues that are important to you. I can be reached on my cell phone at (605) 868-9010 and by email at rep.deutsch@state.sd.us.


Representative Fred Deutsch serves District 4 in the South Dakota House of Representatives. He is a member of the Education Committee and a member of the Health and Human Services Committee.

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