Monday, April 20, 2015

Opting-Out for Funding Can Not Be the State's Solution for Education

Today in education funding news, Cory Heidelberger reports on the serious problem that some northeast schools are having in keeping music teachers.  One of biggest hinderance to keeping teachers in the field is pay.  This is nothing new to anyone.  Some people still like to stick their head in the sand and say that this is not the only reason (its not, but it is a big one), and some like to put all the blame on the local districts (the vast majority of districts watch every penny they can spend very carefully).  Rep. Lee Schoenbeck offers his suggestion for dealing with the problem: schools should opt-out if they want to have teachers.  He writes in one post:
Cory –I’m an advocate of the legislature acting on this issue, and I believe we will this next session, but there is an interesting and obvious question you aren’t exploring. Under the current law, EVERY Supt has the ability – with his or her school board, to propose an opt out for the purpose of raising educator salary to a competitive point — yet none have! You should ask: Why not? Do they not see the need (the article seems to belay that concern)? Do they not think they can convince the patrons in their district of the need (the same voters legislators have to convince on a more remote basis)? Are they scared? Are they unconcerned? What other options are there for this dereliction to their duty to aide in the education of the young people in their districts?Its worth asking — and don’t take excuses — why do they play their fiddle while education in their district burns?
One of the problems with this issue is that many schools have already gone the route of the opt-out.  In an April 16, 2013 article the Associated School Boards of South Dakota posted the following graph:

As you can see, the level of opt-outs has already substantially increased.  This is despite the fact that if the opt-out requires a public vote, a super-majority of 60% of voters must agree with it.  Many of those voting may not have children enrolled in the school.  

Remember that Tea Area needed four separate votes to pass building construction for its district despite having to rely on outbuildings for classrooms.  Even when taking out an auditorium, 27% of the people that voted said, "Nope, those kids don't need a real classroom."  Relying on the opt-out just allows the state to avoid its basic responsibilities for meeting the needs of students.  For another example, one can look at Rapid City and the fact that they will also need to face a vote that risks many of the offerings that students can use for an enriched education.

It is up to the state government to make some of the tough decisions about helping fund our education and not kicking the can down the road to local property tax payers.  Mr. Schoenbeck, ask yourself what would happen if you had to put any of your hourly rates up to a public vote, first through a board of 7 publicly-elected individuals who may or may not understand how the law works, and then to a public vote of 60% of the public who may or may not directly use your services.  Just a thought.

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