USD President Jim Abbott told a Vermillion crowd Thursday that South Dakota is slacking off on education:
While Abbott said that he loves South Dakota, “our state has a tremendous aversion to taxes. ... We don’t want to pay for them. We want excellence. We don’t care to pay for it.”
...“I don’t believe in throwing money at a problem, but I think it’s pretty clear we do not support education, either K-12 or public higher ed., to the extent that we should” [Travis Gulbrandson, "'Evisceration' of the Arts," Yankton Press and Dakotan, 2013.09.26].
Notably, Pierre-friendly journalist Bob Mercer agrees with Abbott. Even conservative Republican Senator Larry Rhoden (R-29/Union Center) thinks we should put back the money we took away from education in 2011.
Mercer threads his opinion around the rhetorical device of saying Abbott, Rhoden, and others are "no fools." Want to know who else is no fool? Teachers in the labor market:
Monday’s committee meeting on education funding was a morning filled with testimony from school superintendents across the state. Each testified as to the financial situation of his or her respective school district. We heard over and over of the lack of well qualified applicants for teaching positions. As of August 1, there were over 200 openings for certified staff statewide. Also discussed were the tremendous cuts in everything from sports programs to electives to support staff to increased class sizes and declining test scores [Rep. Kathy Tyler (D-4/Big Stone City), "Buffalo and Politicians," Kathy's Corner, 2013.09.30].
200 open teaching positions less than a month before school starts? That averages out to every school district in South Dakota being short a teacher, and a third missing two teachers. That's nuts.
South Dakota has qualified teachers, like Tyler's son-in-law, who should be jumping at those good jobs. But when those good jobs don't come with good pay, when Tyler's son-in-law joins generations of South Dakota teachers who tell their kids not to go into teaching, labor market survival is bound to catch up with us.
In education as with the Legislative Research Council, South Dakota has been lucky, getting excellence without paying for it. We now need to elect leaders who are willing to catch us up on our payments before we reap the rotten fruit of South Dakota skinflintery.