“Next in importance to freedom and justice is popular education, without which neither freedom nor justice can be permanently maintained.”
—James A. Garfield, 20th President of the United States

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

SD funding shortfall study guide

Feeling blindsided by the state's sudden financial crisis? Wondering how we went from an election season full of promise and optimism to a pounding fiscal hangover? Don't worry, you're not alone.
There's plenty of time to catch up before the 10% Budget Cut Q & A Forum, hosted by Education First, Sat., Feb. 26, at 9 a.m. at George S. Mickelson Middle School in Brookings. The event offers an opportunity to ask questions and engage in dialogue with Sen. Larry Tidemann, Reps. Scott Munsterman and Spence Hawley, Brookings school district administrators and SDSU President David Chicoine.
To back up a little and put the situation in perspective, consider what gubernatorial candidate Dennis Daugaard had to say about education and economic issues:  
• Education
• Teacher pay 
• The economy
One of the many interesting points that ring hollow in Daugaard's "Not Broken" ad is his comment that  South Dakota has "more money in state reserves than eight years ago" and that we are "well positioned for success."
Hmmm. Really? How is that possible when we were actually $127 million in the hole?
And, how are our lawmakers responding to Daugaard's line in the sand? Here is a quick series of courses on legislative efforts: 
• SB 126 — Shell Games 101 
• SB 133 — Accounting Gimmicks 102 
• Alternative solutions — Scrambling 103 
• Sales tax hike — Failure to Accept Responsibility 104
10% pay cut — Hypocrisy 105
Now, we do applaud Gov. Daugaard for voluntarily cutting his salary by 15 percent. The true savings of this selfless action, however, will be offset by his hiring of a full-time lieutenant governor. Daugaard also deserves credit for cutting his office expenses from the levels increased by his predecessor, Gov. Mike Rounds.
The question remains, though, will he go 10 percent below the point from where Rounds raised spending for a true cut? This is what he is demanding of education — 10 percent beyond what already has been axed.
While Rounds increased spending on his administration, he lessened the state's education burden, according to the Associated School Boards of South Dakota. The ASBSD contends that during Rounds' tenure state spending increased as state aid to education decreased.
In Brookings, the reduction in state aid during the Rounds administration pushed the district into deficit spending as well as forced $300,000 in cuts last year alone. Even without any drop in aid for 2012, the district faces a 12 percent hike in insurance for the next school year.
Rest assured, whether the Daugaard cut comes through at 10 percent or less, programs and positions will be lost. How many is the only uncertainty.

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