Last updated on 2011.04.30
Another crowded tab bar, another call to clear the queue! Here's an education potpourri for your Friday:
Save Groton Debate! The Groton High School debate program faces the budget axe. Groton debater Michaela Oleson qualified for Nationals in Student Congress this year. Oleson is part of a fity-year tradition of great debate in Groton, which includes alumnae like Brookings teacher and debate coach Judy Kroll and Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. Groton debate alumni Carson Larson and Ross Buntrock have set up an endowment fund to save the program. Contact Groton business manager Mike Weber to find out how you and your dollars can help.
Extracurriculars Yield 1:7 ROI: I've always wondered just how much money extracurricular activities make for schools. At the opt-out forum in Yankton Tuesday, school board member Chris Specht said Yankton spends $700,000 on extracurricular activities and recoups $100,000 in gate receipts. Some might say a dollar back for every seven spent is awful. Fortunately, we know the real value of activities like debate and theater is not the revenue we generate at contests but the lifelong learning and earning power students get from participating.
Cutting Sports Travel Cuts Revenue: In the same article, Specht also offers this unexpected counterargument to folks who want to cut extracurricular travel to save school money:
We would save $3,000 not making a trip to Rapid City.... But then Rapid City wouldn't come here to play, and we would lose $3,000 to $4,000 in gate receipts [Chris Specht, in Randy Dockendorf, "YSD Impacted by State, Feds," Yankton Press & Dakotan, 2011.04.27].
There are two sides to every argument... and there's always more than one column in a spreadsheet.
Horticulture and Agriculture Useless Majors: The most avidly blogging debate coach in South Dakota notes that two of the least promising, lowest paying college majors (according to The Daily Beast) are horticulture and agriculture. That's probably the feeling locals are getting from SDSU's budget cuts....
Marketing vs. Reality: South Dakota Board of Regents exec Jack Warner has a tough job. He has to fight for more resources for our public university system, but he also has to maintain a good marketing front. Thus, he has to say things like this:
Three years of budget hits have not diminished the quality of education that public university students receive in South Dakota, but the cuts can't continue, the director of the Board of Regents says.
Jack Warner told the Argus Leader editorial board Thursday that despite a reduction in state support of almost $28 million the past three fiscal years, "I haven't seen cuts deep enough to affect our fundamental quality" [Steve Young, "Regents Chief: More Cuts Would Mean Pain," that Sioux Falls paper, 2011.04.28].
I appreciate the need to keep telling prospective students that our universities are worth their tuition dollars. But "fundamental quality" is a dodging phrase. Let's just talk quality. When you reduce funding, staff, and available majors, you reduce the quality of a university system. You make talented students and faculty that much more likely to seek opportunities elsewhere (speaking of which, SDSU Ag-Bio Communications folks, UNL has two good openings!). The same is true of our K-12 schools. We all want to say good things about our South Dakota institutions, but we cannot look at an education system pummeled by budget cuts for the last three years and claim with a straight face that they have not suffered some decline in overall quality.
Update 14:36 CDT: Mr. Woodring, alas, thinks the erosion of our public university system is perfectly acceptable and that Dr. Warner should quit griping and get back to work.
Update 2011.04.30 07:14 CDT: Unfortuantely, Dr. Warner's effort to put a good face forward only facilitates the Republican propaganda machine that wants you to believe we can keep cutting public services without negative impacts.