Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Opt-out Votes For Schools Show Need to Return to Basic Democracy

Yesterday two school district suffered a defeat when it came to getting funds for their schools.  Democracy at in action right?  Except in one case a majority of citizens agreed to the opt-out.  In the Tea Areas case over 57 percent of voters supported the opt-out to try and find a way to get children out of mobil homes and into a real building.  I have taught in a mobil home after our school was condemned and it is not the optimum place for education.  There is no running water, no access to a bathroom without having to go outside in the weather to the main building.  Hard to fit classrooms that were not designed in the right shape for 25 students.  Those are just a few of the problems that come with teaching in a mobile home.

It has always confused me that 57% is no longer a majority.  It appears that school districts will not be getting any help soon.

The fastest way to reduce financial problems in many South Dakota school districts is to restore the state aid that was cut 8.6 percent in 2011 by the Legislature, leaders for two statewide school organizations told a panel of lawmakers Monday. 
 They said about $23 million is needed to return to the $4,805-per-student allocation (PSA) that comes from state aid and the general-education tax on property. 
 “It isn’t a big leap. It’s very close to what you did (this) year,” Wade Pogany, executive director for the Associated School Boards of South Dakota, told the legislators.
The Republican party calls for a continued opportunity to get schools functioning at levels that only punish our students.  The article by Bob Mercer continues:
Currently, state aid is due for a 1.6 percent inflationary increase — approximately $5.3 million — for the coming year. 
 “That won’t help our schools any,” said Sen. Chuck Welke, D-Warner, a retired educator. “We’re starving our schools to death, and it’s time we take some action.” 
  State law calls for the PSA to increase by the rate of inflation, but by no more than 3 percent. Another committee member, Rep. Bill Van Gerpen, R-Tyndall, said the Legislature should follow the law — a reference to the two years of the freeze and the cut.
 What does all this mean for our students?  Missing opportunities of a truly quality and rounded education.  Mercer report continues

Several superintendents, including Scott Lepke of Custer, said they see test scores falling. 
 “We currently offer a bare-bones education and we can’t afford to offer many of the opportunities the students are interested in,” said Lepke, whose district covers 1,208 square miles and has about 865 students. 
 At Milbank, Superintendent Tim Graf said they have “nowhere else to cut.” 
 Graf told the legislators every additional dollar of state aid would help, whether to increase teacher salaries, reduce class sizes or restore programs.
With legislators seemingly unwilling to do the work and take the pressure off of property taxes, we are getting to a situation that requires a return to majority votes for an opt-out.  Schools don't want to waste your money.  That is why we have school boards made of people the don't work for the district and are answerable to the public.  It might be time to change the law to that of a real democracy.

No comments:

Post a Comment