Country-club Republican Senator Dan Lederman (R-16/Dakota Dunes) whines that the plan to let wealthy businesses erase their property tax bill and drain the public K-12 budget with tax breaks for donations to private schools was killed by "prejudices and aggressive lobbying on the part of a taxpayer funded special interest group." I assume he's referring to the Associated School Boards of South Dakota, who quite sensibly opposed HB 1173. Let's remember that the ASBSD is not a "special interest" group. It represents school boards from across the state, elected by the people, just like Senator Lederman. With its broad membership of hundreds of school board members, the ASBSD is less of a special interest that Senator Lederman.
Rep. Don Kopp (R-35/Rapid City) didn't say anything about aggressive special-interest lobbying when he pulled his HB 1173 Tuesday. He told the House Taxation Committee it was a good bill, although he planned to cut his good idea in half by amending the maximum per-student tax break from 80% of the state's per-student allocation to 40%. But he asked that the committee kill the bill, based on discussion he'd had with constituents.
Maybe Rep. Kopp was talking to the constituents who read his hometown paper. The Rapid City Journal is conducting an online poll asking, "Do you think parents of home-schooled children or those in private schools should receive a property tax rebate?" When I clicked No this morning, I bumped the vote count to 618 for and 1,662 against. That's 73% against what Rep. Kopp wanted to do with HB 1173. If that RCJ poll even remotely reflects public sentiment, Rep. Kopp was smart to run away from his tax-break plan.
Senator Lederman argues that HB 1173 is a good starting point for conversation about how private schools and home school parents are entitled to public taxpayer support. Senator Lederman continues to pound the out-state ideological drum of school choice, even though even he admits that private school choices are limited and out of financial reach for most South Dakotans. Add to that the inability of two-income families to home school their kids, and Sen. Lederman's "school choice" propaganda sounds impractical, right?
Ah, but leave it to Lederman wave the magic wand of free-market fundamentalism. Divert tax dollars to private schools, says Lederman, and you'll see an "explosion" of education options in South Dakota. Folks are just waiting to offer their kids all sorts of new educational opportunities; we just need, says Lederman, to give them money.
Read Lederman's article closely, and you'll realize he's supporting the same argument that he and the SDGOP assail when we Democrats make it: put more money into education, and teachers and students will be able to do more.
It takes a country-club mindset like Lederman's to think that increasing funding for public schools won't solve anything, while throwing money at private schools and home school will create an educational utopia in South Dakota.
Related: Even some homeschoolers don't want tax credits, since they worry such government favors would take away the freedom Lederman thinks Kopp's bill would have enhanced.