“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

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

We, the people, are part of the problem

After writing every state lawmaker in South Dakota, we were pleasantly surprised that several of them took the time and energy to send a personal reply.
Yet, as promising as that might sound, depression set in with the responses sticking to party lines — Democrats lamenting the pending education funding cuts and blaming the Republicans, and Republicans saying sorry, there is no money and no other options.
 Same s@*t, different group of legislators. Whether it's here, Madison, Wisc., or Washington, DC, the inability to break partisan deadlock is long past tired and old. We know it sounds hokey, but can't we all just get along? There is a greater good at stake.
This is the kind of setting that begs for bold leadership and vision, but all we're getting is stunted, inside-the-box thinking.
The news out of Pierre today didn't boost any hope, even if it was limited:
• Sen. Larry Rhoden's SB152, which would drop Daugaard's 10 percent cut to 5.6 percent, where it seemed to be hanging in limbo.
• Sen. Cooper Garnos decided his SB133, which shifted state aid payments to free up money, wouldn't work and asked to have it killed.
We hate to say it, but whether it's at the national level or here on the open plains, we have gotten what we deserve. These are the people we put into office.
Sure, some of the candidates, like Gov. Daugaard (read his Plan for Education, particularly page 8 on his commitment — ha! — to education funding) were misleading if not less than truthful. But still, ultimately, we are responsible.
We've been letting our lawmakers off the hook and not holding them accountable. Year after year, we send them to Pierre, they squabble about education funding and do nothing to fix the system.
If we don't like how our elected officials are behaving and the policies they are implementing, we have the ability to change that. The key is setting aside the sound bites and the spin and doing our homework.
Unfortunately, the next election won't come soon enough to save us from the looming disaster with education.
In the meantime, though, we can educate ourselves. Here is a good place to start learning and asking questions: Primer on the South Dakota Budget.

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