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Bolin Wants School and Public Lands Job: Aspiring to Wrong Office?

Jim Bolin, Republican candidate for Commissioner of School and Public Lands
Jim Bolin, Republican candidate for Commissioner of School and Public Lands

Rep. Jim Bolin (R-16/Canton) announced yesterday that he wants to replace Jarrod Johnson as our Commissioner of School and Public Lands. Read that job title carefully: he wouldn't get to commission schools; rather, he'd be in charge of school lands and other public lands.

I don't mind Bolin's leaving the Legislature to run for a different office. His departure may improve Ann Tornberg's chances of winning a District 16 seat, if she's willing to run for a third-time charm. The Displaced Plainsman and Joel Rosenthal both vouch for Bolin's thoughtfulness and commitment to doing right by education. Bolin has won my respect with constitutional good sense and rhetorical passion ("Nullification? No! Never! We will not have nullification!").

But burying that sense and passion in the School and Public Lands office a terrible waste. I'd love to see Bolin use a statewide campaign to lead a public conversation about educational issues, like the Common Core standards he so staunchly opposes. I'd enjoy watching Bolin get fired up in a debate about weighty Constitutional issues. Bolin backs some bad policies (guns in schools, gold and silver currency, Keystone XL), but it would at least be fun to listen to him hash them out in a debate.

Alas, as a candidate for the School and Public Lands office, Bolin wouldn't get to discuss any of those issues. He'd be talking about whether the state should sell some old dams. If elected, he'd oversee some land deals and distribute funds as dictated by the Legislature. I welcome correction from the comment section, but Commissioner of School and Public Lands strikes me as one of the dullest jobs on the ballot.

It's too bad we don't have an elected Commissioner of Schools as Montana, Wyoming, and eleven other states have and as Louisiana is considering. Bolin could make a race for that position exciting and, if elected, stop the state Board of Education from doing really bad things (like dropping the speech graduation requirement that helps make South Dakota students exceptionally good speakers, a change that is quietly in the works in Pierre, thanks to Common Core). Absent that opportunity, Bolin's commitment to constitutional propriety and listening to all sides could make him a good pick to oust Jason Gant from the Secretary of State's office or even to run for the House seat that Rep. Kristi Noem may vacate to climb her next celebrity rung to the U.S. Senate.

But School and Public Lands? Come on, Jim! I know we need good people for every job, but you can have a lot more fun running a different campaign.


  1. Rorschach 2013.03.26

    I like Jim Bolin.

  2. mike 2013.03.26

    Same here. He goes his own way. He was an outspoken advocate against HB 1234. I'd support him.

  3. Rorschach 2013.03.26

    I like Jarrod Johnson too. He's one of the good guys, and I hope he stays involved with politics.

  4. Les 2013.03.27

    School and Lands money goes into ed Corey! Is that office providing all the money they can/should to your/our system? Follow the money or lack there of. I have no idea but do well remember George D Kane taking that job and getting threats on his life for pulling those rents out of the early 1900's into the 70's.

  5. UnionCo 2013.03.27

    South Dakota State Representative Patty Miller, R-McCook Lake, has resigned.
    Miller's resignation is effective immediately. Miller tells KSFY News the reason for her resignation is not from anything negative. She simply said she has some personal issues to take care of right now.
    Now, Governor Dennis Daugaard is asking for the public's help in appointing someone to fill the position.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.03.30

    Les, the money goes to education, so Bolin would have a chance to send us checks, which is nice. But the 2013 SPL report says that amount Commissioner Jarrod Johnson was able to send to schools was about $52 per student, or 1.2% of the state's K-12 per-student allocation. SPL sent $102K to Spearfish, covering pay for perhaps three teachers.

    Every penny counts, but Bolin only manages the revenue sources and writes the checks within the parameters set by the legislator. SPL's work seems mostly bookkeeping, not policymaking, not nearly as fun as being a legislator or maybe secretary of education.... and certainly not as fun as teaching in the classroom.

  7. grudznick 2013.03.30

    People say young Mr. Johnson blew his budget on huge bonuses, and it seems like Mr. Bolin is much more conservative. Maybe he would ratchet down some of those payments and return the monies to the taxpayer.

  8. Les 2013.03.30

    Harding County which currently has all SD's oil also has most of the school land. I would say unless our legislature steals the mineral rights from the school land it should be a larger producer of income as time moves on Corey.
    Are your numbers reflecting what the school proceeds should be, or just what they are?

  9. grudznick 2013.03.30

    How many oil wells are on school lands? My granddaughter showed me a place to find all of these reports filed with the DEANR for oil wells and it has 82 wells listed in Harding county. Will people drill more wells there or will they drill in the Bacon Formation in the more rectangular Dakota?

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.03.31

    Les, the numbers in my comment above are as is, straight from the state. My point is that Jim doesn't get any say over what those numbers should be from the SPL chair. What fun is it to write the checks when someone else tells you the amount?

  11. Les 2013.03.31

    It would be reasonable for me to believe he does have say on the numbers or there would not have been threats on Kane's well being back in the day.

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.04.01

    Les, those threats sound like the results of land management, not school funding. Proper management may increase the amount of money available, but I don't think SPL has any say in how that money is apportioned or spent.

  13. Les 2013.04.01

    It appears to me it is spent as was intended Corey, for the benefit of education. If there is a problem it would be with the management end of the income which I don't believe matches the business end of my lease world. That is the hand of the man in charge of SPL in my opinion. It can be the end of a political career with that nastiness resulting from a job well done as also happens with the state treasure's job. Though, few do either really well. Check our history in those arenas Corey and if you want face to face with those who've run that gauntlet I'd be more than happy to help put you there.

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