Saturday, March 15, 2014

Montgomery Is Right, the Republican's Priority Is Not Education

There has always been a lot of talk from Republicans in Pierre about how they love education, but it has always been more talk than action.  From Daugaard's promise that education would receive the first and last dollars under his administration (even with the legislature going above the Governor's original 1.6% that was adjusted to 3% after he had an opponent, it is still not up to the 2011 levels), to Republicans that pat themselves on the back when they do anything for education and in the next voice claim that there is simply no money to give to education.

Rep. Fred Romkema, R-Spearfish, said lawmakers gave schools as much money as the state had left over. 
"The target this year was $4,804 for the public schools. We almost split the difference," Romkema said. "We only have so much money to spend, and I think we made a good faith effort here to get halfway there. I think we should be commended for that, and not leave here with some guilty feelings."
That seems to always be the response.  I asked Senator Otten from District 6 that if you never look for additional funds and actually cut back on revenue, how will you ever be able to increase the funding for education to a level that everyone says is important.  No real answer could be given, except that money is not the answer to improving education.  People will always want more money.  (Darn those teachers for wanting to eat.)

That is exactly the problem.  You can't claim education is a priority if it is the last thing you deal with.  David Montgomery with the Argus Leader makes that observation on his blog Political Smokeout: 
The comments reflect a philosophical dispute about budgeting process. Here’s what I surmise from observing the budget process for a number of years: Generally speaking, Democrats would say school funding is their top priority, fund it at the level needed, and then build the rest of the budget around that priority. Republicans look at school funding as just one of a number of priorities in a complicated budget, not one that necessarily gets primacy. That means lawmakers determine how much money is available and then allocate a portion to schools, rather than determining how much money schools need first and allocating the rest of the money to other areas. [emphasis is mine]
I appreciate the increase, but it will be meaningless if Republicans are doing this simply because it is an election year.  Maybe this is a small step in the right direction of making education a priority, but when you include cuts to programs like JAG and past laws passed by the Governor and the Republicans, I am not holding my breath.  

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