Monday, August 17, 2015

Daugaard and GOP Have Let All Students Down

School is just around corner for many students.  Recently, there was a lot made about the lack of support from the state for "gifted" students programs.  The Argus Leader on August 8, 2015 wrote about the leadership provided under Daugaard:
For the first time in years, the South Dakota’s Governor’s Camp at USD was also graced by the presence of its namesake. 
Gov. Dennis Daugaard offered his support, but left before the end of the ceremony. Gifted education hasn’t been a priority of his administration, but the state has added resources for advanced students under Daugaard’s watch, including a dual credit program so high school students can earn college credits before they graduate. 
After, students expressed disappointment with his comments. Impassioned children and teens demanded more. [emphasis mine]
The general attitude towards education can be summed up by a couple of phrases in the commentary: "For the first time in years," and "left beffore the end of the ceremony."

As Cory Heidelberger points out in the Dakota Free Press on the eighth of August:
As with teacher pay, South Dakota lawmakers hide behind the mantra of “local control” to justify not taking action to support gifted education. But to say, “The state doesn’t have to fund gifted education; local schools can raise and spend all the money they want” is to ignore the practical reality demonstrated by the end of state funding for gifted education in 1995. Take away state support for a K-12 program, and fewer schools will offer that program. In the case of gifted education, the 1995 cuts meant seven out of eight schools lost their programs. 
“Local control” is a sham excuse if local districts don’t have resources to control. The South Dakota Legislature and the Governor should stop making excuses and restore funding for gifted education. 
This mantra impacts not only gifted programs, but all aspects of our children's education.  This became articulated in the Black Hill Pioneer on August 14, 2015.  In the article the Spearfish district states exactly what has been lost (This is a little long, but the depth of the impact to programs is important:)
According to budget reduction information provided by Peters, from 1999 to 2005, the Spearfish School District cut its teaching staff by 15. At the elementary schools, six of those staff cuts were regular teaching positions, resulting in larger average class sizes, increasing from 19 to 25 in K-5. Two librarians were replaced with an aide and classified staff reductions included four full-time employees  
Programs that were eliminated or reduced at the elementary level include: the gifted and talented program, the swimming program, the parallel block scheduling, and planning time and staff development.   
At Spearfish Middle School, seven teaching positions have been eliminated and the assistant principal replaced with a part-time Dean of Students. Two teacher aides have been eliminated, as well as 14 coaching positions, and core classes are at a 30-student average. 
Middle school programs that have been eliminated or reduced include: foreign language, home economics, conflict resolution/peer mediation, industrial technology, alternative education, creative expressions (drama, art, writing), library, band lessons, staff development, and all sixth-grade extracurricular activities. 
At Spearfish High School, eight teachers and two full-time equivalents in classified staff have been cut since 1999. Programs and departments that have been eliminated or have suffered a reduced number of staff since the 1999-2000 school year include: family and consumer science, industrial tech, art, physical education, auto shop, band/choir, social studies, math, English, business/computer and foreign language. 
Since then, nearly 30 high school courses have been eliminated, including: advanced speech, American cultural studies, auto mechanics I, auto mechanics II, auto mechanics III, child development, clothing and textiles, creative writing II, drama II, electronics, family living, foods I, housing, independent living, industrial technology, jazz band, life skills, multi media art history, marriage and family, mixed mediums, music theory, mythology, nutrition and foods, power mechanics, survival cooking, swing choir, and journalism.
Nearly a dozen high school activities have been eliminated, and several others have been impacted by cuts in salaries, supplies, meals, travel, dues/fees, and professional services.
This is happening to schools all over the state.  As the Blue Ribbon Panel looks into the funding issue, I hope that this is something that they consider as part of the equation.  It is time for our legislators to do more than give lip service to making education first.


  1. We are endanger of the committee recommending funding for only the "basics" and saying anything else is a local option that needs to be funded by fees. Everyone is assuming more funding, but the legislature and executive branch could also say there are no additional funds available and that local districts will have to determine their priorities. Increased teacher salaries will come at a cost and that cost could be a further reduction of student opportunities and school consolidation.

  2. That is the story that they have told for decades now. Gee, we simply don't have the funds. Sorry.

    You make an excellent point.