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The door opens with tuition aid for new schools

PIERRE -- Some of our legislators can be really crafty at times. They spent much of the 2016 session struggling over transgender bathroom policy in our public schools. Meanwhile they passed another piece of legislation that could make the issue g...

PIERRE - Some of our legislators can be really crafty at times.

They spent much of the 2016 session struggling over transgender bathroom policy in our public schools.

Meanwhile they passed another piece of legislation that could make the issue go poof!

It would provide money, so transgender students or any students could have non-public schools.

Seriously.

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Soon we could have Republican or Democratic or socialist non-public schools.

We could have non-public schools where only Lakota is spoken.

Or Latin. Or Mandarin. Or Spanish. Or any other language a family might choose.

We could have non-public schools oriented along beliefs of any religion, not just Christianity.

We could have people starting non-public schools in their neighborhoods, or for their parts of the prairie, or forest.

Entrepreneurs could set up franchise systems or offer starter kits.

This has giant potential. You can hear the potential job numbers climbing.

Unfortunately the legislation that would allow all of this has a $2.5 million cap.

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And also unfortunately, only insurance companies would be allowed to donate the $2.5 million. in return for 80 percent credit against their state insurance premium taxes.

The question heard most often is why do only insurance companies get to give their money away, and pay only 20 percent of their state taxes.

And why a $2.5 million limit on the donations? Insurance companies pay 30 times that much in state taxes in South Dakota.

There could be many insurance companies who get left out because they didn't get in line fast enough.

Why would we want to hold private enterprise back?

We don't know yet whether Gov. Dennis Daugaard will sign SB 159 into law or veto it. He faces a big decision.

If SB 159 wasn't so constraining, it could revolutionize K-12 education for South Dakota.

If enough tax credits were offered, to enough companies, public schools could be needed much less.

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And why not tax credits for the everyday citizen?

Why not pay 20 percent of your property taxes to the government, and send an amount equivalent to 100 percent of your property taxes instead to a non-profit organization?

Oh wait, that would cost the taxpayer 120 percent.

But if a taxpayer really, really want to give money for tuition aid for a non-public school, an 80 percent tax credit looks a lot better than no tax credit.

Never mind the two sections of the South Dakota Constitution that bars government from financially assisting sectarian institutions.

We can get around that. Don't let the government have the money in the first place.

Let the taxpayer instead pay a non-profit that distributes the tuition aid. Give the tuition aid directly to the family. Let the family pay the institution.

This is how school choice would work under SB 159. The Senate approved it 24-11. The House of Representatives passed it 45-23.

There are almost enough supporters to override a governor's veto. That takes 24 in the Senate and 47 in the House.

And we can afford this. Come June 1, we'll pay 4.5 percent sales tax in South Dakota, up from 4 percent.

Oh, some of our legislators can be really crafty sometimes.

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