…the composition of the task force is a slap in the face to all of us concerned with the future of education. The Blue Ribbon Task Force initial membership is comprised of 10 legislators and three members of the governor’s cabinet and staff. Of the 10 legislators, three are Democrats and seven are Republicans. Only two of the legislators have experience working in the education profession [Dr. Alan Neville, “Governor Has Rigged Task Force on Teachers, Students,” Aberdeen American News, 2015.05.27].
True, the BluRTFTS is currently stacked with people committed to telling the Governor what he wants to hear. But after they finish their initial round of public meetings in June (first three are less than a week away, Tuesday, June 2, in Chamberlain!), the Governor will pick some teachers, administrators, and parents to join the conversation. Then we’ll get a much clearer picture of just how rigged the process is.
To test the rigging, we should watch for discussion of the two big fiscal problems Neville cites in pre-K–12 education: pay and property tax. The average salary differential between South Dakota teachers and their comrades in neighboring states ranges from $8,600 (North Dakota) to $16,500 (Wyoming)… and by the state’s own figures, the cost of living does not make up the difference.
The simple fact that South Dakota ranks rock bottom for average teacher pay year after year is disheartening, but the fact that the governor continues to ignore this inequity is further proof of his low priority for education [Neville, 2015.05.27].
To address that pay inequity, Neville says we must address tax inequity. He says we have to get away from the obsolete and regressive property tax and seek new revenue streams. He doesn’t say what those revenue streams are, but if we’re talking about creating revenue streams that don’t hit low-income people harder than hig-income people, then we’re talking about revenue streams calculated on the basis of income, and a Daugaard-rigged Blue Ribbon Task Force won’t breathe a word on that topic.
Let’s hope Dr. Neville and other education advocates can fill seats and ears at the June 23 Aberdeen meetings of the “rigged” Blue Ribboneers.