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Russell Olson Celebrates Deep Cuts to Education

Senator Russell Olson (R-8/Wentworth) speaks on the Senate floor, March 8, 2011, Pierre, South Dakota
Sen. Russell Olson tries to have it both ways, calling massive cuts "additional funding."

Senator Russell Olson (R-8/Wentworth) is trying to shape an alternative reality. The Senate Majority Leader got all exclamation-pointy yesterday about "his" amendment (oh, the privileges of rank) to HB 1110 to restore $12.2 million to K-12 education funding.

He said on Twitter during the debate that the amendment "will allocate an additional $12,222,096 to SD schools!"

$12.2 million is still less than half the $26.3 million in stimulus dollars that Uncle Sam intended for South Dakota schools but which Governors Rounds and Daugaard, with Senator Olson's support, have raided to prop up their mismanaged general fund.

On passage, Olson Tweet-shouted again, "Amendment passed! $12,222,096 additional ,one-time, education dollars for SD students to help soften the blow of the education cuts."

$12.2 million is less than 10% of the $127 million in K-12 cuts Senator Olson originally supported. This one-time money softens, but it still blows.

Senator Olson's font of obfuscation kept flowing: "that's $97 per student in the state of South Dakota! Very exciting!"

The per-student allocation this year is $4,804.60. The Senate voted yesterday (without Senator Olson, who must have been so excited by all that Tweeting that he had to step out to pee) to pass SB 152 to decrease that per-student funding to $4,389.95. That means Madison Central School District gets $477,000 less in the coming school year.

At that rate, we can fire just 15 teachers instead of 18. So yeah, Russ, I guess three teachers will agree with you that that's very exciting.

Madison 4th graders with Senator Russell Olson, State Capitol, Pierre, SD, March 1, 2011
Madison 4th graders with Senator Russell Olson, State Capitol, Pierre, SD, March 1, 2011

Surround yourself with happy little children all you want, Senator Olson. Your budget decisions prove you don't value education. Senator Olson is willing to raise revenue to fix roads and bridges. Senator Olson will raise taxes to support the tourism industry. Senator Olson will divert $22 million from the general fund to give handouts to corporations under the guise of economic development.

But in a state that never sank into recession, in a state that in 2009 generated 2.2% more wealth than the previous year, Senator Russell Olson won't find the money to avoid permanently reducing our spending on education by 8.6%.

If those kids understood the harm you are doing to their school, Senator Olson, they would not be smiling. They would turn and ask why you think they are just an expense, and not an investment.

Madison 4th graders with Senator Russell Olson, State Capitol, Pierre, SD, March 1, 2011
"Really, kids, if I give your money to this multi-million-dollar corporation, they'll come build a factory and pay your parents $10 an hour! Won't that be great? Huh? Kids? Why are you looking at me like that?"

p.s.: The Senate Majority Leader, my own Senator, also continues to block me from following his Twitter feed.

pp.s.: Photos from Senator Olson's Twitpic album. Your tax dollars at work.

ppp.s.: Senator Olson also shut the door on the general public initiating any measures to restore education funding later this year. He joined a parliamentary manuever to unhoghouse House Bill 1141 and prevent the Legislature from authorizing a public vote this November for any initiatives filed by August 2.


  1. Matt Groce 2011.03.10

    I can't type "Amen Brother" fast enough.

    They drew up a plan to destroy education in South Dakota, and instead will only severely cripple it for generations to come. And the Governor and Senator Olson believe they are to be commended for this. Commended for laying off teachers, commended for abandoning their responsibilities, commended for setting the bar so low I can barley look at it.

    I think the people of South Dakota are smarter than Russell Olson gives them credit for. I pray that they are, and I'm looking forward to 2012.

  2. Eve Fisher 2011.03.10

    What's astounding is Daugaard's and Olson's assumption that being elected gives them a mandate to do anything that comes into their heads, even though Daugaard, for one, said he supported increasing education funding when he was running. So run for office, say anything you want, and then when you get elected, do whatever you please, ignoring the will of the people, because this is a republic, not a democracy - and wonder why the anger and the apathy are both increasing among your constituencies.

  3. SuperSweet 2011.03.10

    The Minnesota Legislature set it's budget targets for the next biennium today. The senate, house and governor all proposed level funding for education and will look for other ways to close the $5M hole.

  4. Ben Jarvis 2011.03.10

    His twitter is run by his intern, so you could probably get away with just following her:!/KtWagner
    She calls herself his "chief of staff" and "Legislative Correspondent" and "office manager". This girl really seems to know how to spice up a résumé! Don't expect to see a whole lot of additional intelligence though. Then again, you probably didn't expect that from a 20-something rightwinger anyway.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.03.11

    Minnesota faces a budget deficit 20 times larger than South Dakota's, but the state still protects its commitment to K-12 education. Good work, Minnesota! We envy you.

  6. Charlie Johnson 2011.03.11

    Yea a deficit left by a Republican governor but one willing to be addressed by a new governor-------If we were in Wisconsin, we would probably onto phase II,,,,,,,_ _ _ _ _ the survivors

  7. Steven Kant 2011.03.11

    "Soften to blow" Russell will always be remembered for this phrase. May we add "you should be ashamed". What a joke to think the republicans feel they did a great job. They took the easy way out and people should remind them of that every chance we get.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.03.12

    Darn right, Steve. Tell your neighbors. Have this conversation with everyone you meet between now and November 2012. Keep folks' memories fresh to counter the spin already pouring from Olson and the GOP "leadership".

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