Friday, July 10, 2015

Call for Special Session for Education Is a Big Trojan Horse

A group of Republican legislators out west are calling for a special session because they think that something needs to be done NOW to improve education funding in South Dakota.  This is made up of many of the same people that claimed that there was no reason to vote an opt-out in Rapid City because they should let the Blue Ribbon Panel do its job.  This same group of legislative members now think that the Blue Ribbon Panel is not acting fast enough.  They want to talk about Common Core and maybe some methods of funding education to help schools out before things begin.  Forget the fact that schools have already handed our contracts and they could have taken these ideas up in January and February (the additional funds this year could be handed out as bonuses I suppose and maybe they were too focused on talking about Common Core to think about funding).

If funding is the prime reason for the special session, then why bring up Common Core?  Because that is all these legislative member seem to really care about.  They are not worried about funding.  They feel driven to stick it to the Common Core.  Bob Mercer calls it for exactly what it is:
...May is part of a core of hard conservatives including House Republicans Lynne DiSanto of Rapid City, Lance Russell of Custer, Chip Campbell of Rapid City and Sam Marty of Prairie City, along with Sen. Phil Jensen, R-Rapid City, who don’t support the Blue Ribbon education task force convened by Gov. Dennis Daugaard. Common Core is one thing, but changing the standards used on student achievement assessments won’t pay the grocery bill or the rent or the mortgage or the student loan or the utility bill or the gas station or the bank loan for the vehicle that gets a teacher to the school. If teacher pay is the problem, in a state that perpetually ranks at the bottom of the national ranking for teacher pay, there is only one way to address the situation, and that’s to find the two-thirds majorities needed in the House and the Senate to approve revenue increases and dedicate the money to paying more to teachers. A special session is window shopping — and so is a Blue Ribbon task force, frankly — without a solution of more tax money in hand.
This is not to say that they don't have some idea on education funding.  One is to use the money from the SD Lottery revenue and another is 2% of the South Dakota sales tax.  A final idea is to establish a system that would actually hurt public schools: A Savings Account like in Arizona

The idea was already floated last session as SB189 but with a twist of allowing Insurance companies to pay for it and then get a tax deduction.   Simple logic shows that this idea actually will hurts schools and their ability to fund teachers and educational needs.  Especially smaller schools not located in larger cities.

Yes, we need to take action on better funding for education in this state.  If that was the primary concern, then take Common Core off the table, but funding seems only a distant secondary concern to these legislative members.  Pat Powers over at Dakota War College expressed this idea:
The task force is focused on funding and teacher pay. Not curriculum standards that are already argued about ad nauseum already during session. 
And who cares if they’re going to have a list of who votes on a special session? I’d be watching it to see who wants to waste taxpayer dollars on a special session. 
As a parent with 4 kids left to be educated in the K-12 system, my vote is to let the task force do it’s job.
Actually my vote was to deal with the problem YEARS ago, but since that didn't happen I have to put some hope on this Blue Ribbon Panel.  If the panel cannot come up with more funds, then as Mercer said that this will be nothing more than political "window dressing."

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