South Dakota’s Partners in Education Tax Credit Program was enacted in 2016, launched in 2016, and began providing scholarships in 2016–17. This program provides tax credits to insurance companies who donate to nonprofit scholarship granting organizations (SGOs), which then provide private school scholarships to students who meet the income and grade requirements. Learn more about the program’s funding, eligibility, and rules on this page.
South Dakota’s Partners in Education Tax Credit Program offers tax credits to insurance companies that donate to scholarship granting organizations (SGOs), which provide private school scholarships to eligible students.
The average value of all scholarships awarded by an SGO may be worth up to 82.5 percent of the state’s share of the per-pupil allocation ($4,956 in 2019–20). Scholarships may be used for tuition and fees at qualifying schools.
Students are eligible if they live in families with incomes up to, but not exceeding, 150 percent of the federal free and reduced-price lunch (FRL) program ($72,705 for a family of four in 2020–21) and either (1) attended a public school the preceding semester, (2) is starting at a K–12 school in South Dakota for the first time or (3) is entering kindergarten, first grade or ninth grade. Once a student has received a scholarship, that student remains eligible for three years or, if the student is entering high school, until high school graduation, regardless of income. After the initial period of income eligibility, scholarship students remain eligible if their family income in the prior year does not exceed 200 percent of the FRL program ($96,940 for a family of four in 20120–21).
South Dakota’s tax-credit scholarship program is a great step forward in educational opportunity for students across the state, but it has room to grow. A little more than 35,000 South Dakota families are eligible for the scholarship program out of about 94,000 statewide. That’s less than half of the total student population. Policymakers should expand this program’s eligibility criteria to allow more students across the state to access a school that best meets their learning needs and add a “once in, always in” clause. Currently the program allows a 100 percent tax credit for contributions and has a cap of $2 million, which is small compared to other programs. South Dakota’s testing requirements are good, because they empower parents to choose the standardized exam their children take. But the state should remove the rule requiring South Dakota students to attend public school for one semester prior to application, particularly because the funds following a child to private school are made up of charitable contributions and not public dollars.
S.D. Codified Laws §§ 13-65-1 through 12
No legal challenges have been filed against the program.
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