Tuesday was a rough one for the Sioux Falls School District.
First, school board member Kent Alberty lost a bid for the state Senate to incumbent Mark Johnston.
Initiated Measure 15, the sales tax increase, also failed. You probably don’t remember the Sioux Falls district got the discussion started about a sales tax to boost funding for public schools.
From my Sept. 2, 2010 story:
In 2000, after watching tax limits cripple Colorado’s ability to pay for K-12 education, advocates there organized a referendum to put more money into schools rather than tax rebates.
It worked. Fifty-three percent of voters approved the measure, increasing the per-student state aid formula by 1 percentage point on top of inflation for each of the next 10 years.
With South Dakota educators growing increasingly frustrated by funding efforts in Pierre, voters here soon could face a similar ballot question.
Sioux Falls administrators say they’ll lead an effort this year to explore the “feasibility of initiating a K-12 funding referendum.” Superintendent Pam Homan thinks South Dakota voters support sending more money to schools, something Gov. Mike Rounds and House lawmakers have balked at in recent years.
“That might be the only way to increase education funding substantially,” said Todd Vik, business manager for the Sioux Falls School District.
The idea has been no more than whispered about in recent years, but it could take hold in 2011. The state’s largest school district is interested, and a question about an education referendum was submitted - but not asked because of time constraints - during the gubernatorial debate on education issues last month.
Plus, state Sen. Dave Knudson, the prime sponsor in recent years for a series of education funding bills that would increase spending, is on his way out of politics after losing the Republican primary for governor.
“It may be an idea whose time has come,” Knudson said.
In the win column for the school district was the defeat of Referred Law 16, which the superintendent and board members have criticized.