Two ballot questions on the South Dakota general election ballot dealt directly with education. Initiated Measure 15 pertained to the initiated measure to increase the general sales tax by 1 percent for education and Medicaid funding (FAILED) and the other was a referendum of Governor Daugaard’s education reform bill. (OVERTURED).
The consensus of post election analysis suggests that South Dakotan’s do not want more taxes and they are dissatisfied with the Governor’s legislative effort. The State Democrat party and Democrat legislative leadership promote this viewpoint. It is important to remember and understand that the Democrats were involved in organizing and supporting the petition drives to overturn the Ed Reform law (Referred Law 16). It is also important to remember that the Dems most reliable political base is the SDEA. (In recent years Democrat’s support from the Farmer’s Union has diminished because their membership and activism has aged and fragmented into the stronger commodity and ag industry coalitions. These groups are more pragmatic and either non partisan or bi partisan in nature.) The Democrats also are saying that the election weakened the Governor politically because his economic development law (Referred Law 14 was also overturned due to their efforts.
I will save my commentary for the Governor for another time only to say he is not weak politically as his party held their own in an off year (for statewide State House races) election.
My analysis of the two education related ballot issues (IM15 and Referred Law 16) is that South Dakotans are satisfied with their K-12 Schools. No reason was demonstrated why sales tax increases is needed nor why reform is needed. Voters feel education is ok.
I do not agree it is ok (for reasons I’ll get into below). My point here is voters DO think the quality of education is ok and are satisfied. This post is not about the Governor who is actually demonstrating he wants to improve education but South Dakotans’ perception of the state of Education and how they truly feel about efforts to improve the education our children receive.
Most South Dakotans want their children to receive an education and a diploma. The diploma is important and is demonstrated in the celebrations and house parties held by parents at Graduation.
However there is little effort by School Boards or the State Legislature to push for academic excellence. Parents and Local School boards are more interested in Extra Curriculars than Academics.
Jim Hanson who served as Secretary of Education for Governor Janklow in the 1980s often said, “the most important question in South Dakota education is the relative importance of (and then he motioned the forward pass or the dribble). Recently Representative Jim Bolin expressed to me what Citizens most want from their Schools is to hang the banner in the Gym. Representative Bolin is not just a thoughtful conservative Legislator but a Great Teacher. Both my children had him for multiple classes and he understands excellent education.
Consistently there are reports of the high numbers of students in our Universities that require remedial education. This means they are not ready for College level work. Those requiring remedial courses exceed 25 percent. That is 1 in 4. While parents believe their children are receiving a good education our Schools are practicing Educational Malpractice!
It pains me to say this because I love schools, have many friends that are teachers and administrators. (Perhaps after writing this I should have said “had” many friends.) Our Schools do face challenges and public policy doesn’t make it easy but the first step is to admit there is a problem. Not say, Education is ok.
To admit the problem their must be accountability. Whenever a Governor or Legislator talks about accountability or reform the so called Pro Education community (Teachers, School Boards, Administrators) in unison says more money. Money is ALWAYS the answer to all problemos education – PERIOD!
Money is part of the solution but only a part and pales in comparison to Step 1.
We must take reforms to make education better. Our future depends on it, our kids, our economy, and our standard of living.