Monday, February 15, 2016

The Time is Now!

This week is a big week for teachers in South Dakota.  After the delay tactic last week by House Republicans, HB 1182 will be voted on (hopefully) by SD representatives.  Yesterday both the Rapid City Journal and the Sioux Falls Argus Leader had editorials supporting this bill.  

The Rapid City (RC) editorial is really gung ho about the bill, especially because much of the funding will come “from tourists, rallygoers and other visitors.” Really, that makes it better?  Doesn’t that mean that SD is relying on non-residents to pay for our children’s education?  How cheap are we? 

The RC editorial also states, “Companies and small businesses have the same recruitment and retention concerns and wonder why they should continue investing in a state that isn't willing to invest in public education at the level other states do.” SD often touts its great climate for businesses because of a lack of corporate income tax. So the businesses like the tax breaks but are concerned about education funding? What is wrong with this picture?

At least the SF Argus Leader pointed out flaws in HB 1182 including “Sales taxes affect the poor and working families to a greater degree.”  This is my biggest concern with using a sales tax to fund education.  This is why I prefer SB 151, which would increase the sales tax by 1 cent but exempt certain food items from the tax increase.  This Senate bill is brought forward by several Democrats, which makes it unlikely to be passed by our partisan legislature. I hope it comes out of committee at least.

All I know is that SD has a lot of hard working teachers who deserve a raise. They spend countless hours in the evening and on weekends grading and planning lessons.  They spend money out of their own pocket to purchase supplies and seek professional development.  And they spend more time each day with our children than many of us do.  Our children’s education is worth this investment in our great teachers!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

South Dakota’s Greatest Asset: Our Teachers

Every year after the state science and math teachers’ conference in Huron, I am always so proud of the great teachers we have in South Dakota.  I love going to the conference because I get to talk with these dedicated professionals who are always seeking opportunities to learn more and improve their teaching.  Many of them pay for the entire cost or partial cost of their attendance with their own money, despite the fact that they don’t get paid well.  They do this because they believe in the importance of investing in education.

I had the privilege and opportunity of receiving a great public education in South Dakota from Kindergarten through my Master’s degree.  Throughout that time, I had some amazing teachers and I remember ALL of them having some impact on my life.  I am certain that their influence was a factor in my career decision, and their support was essential to my success as an educator.

Now is the time for South Dakotans to invest in their greatest asset—our teachers.  While I am not a huge fan of a regressive tax, I will support this measure if it is the only way that the legislature will fund a significant raise for teachers.  I would hope that they will consider alternatives to a sales tax, but I want you to contact your legislators about HB 1182 because there is an important vote on Wednesday! To find your legislators and contact them, go to the SD Legislative Site.

Here are some other education funding and taxation bills that I would encourage you to read, HB 1130,  SB 131, and SB 151. Talk to your legislators about these as well.

We MUST invest in education in South Dakota for the future of our state.  NOW is the time to act!