Board Prez Says Opt-Out Defeat Hurts Rapid City; Blue Ribboneers in Town

School boards are not allowed to campaign for referred opt-out measures. But now that Rapid City voters have rejected the school district’s request for six million additional dollars each year for five years to maintain staff and programs, the school board can let fly:

“We the School Board wish to thank all of those in the community who had the vision to vote “yes” and to work to try and make Rapid City a better place,” School Board President Jim Hansen said.

 “With this ‘no’ vote on the opt-out, it is time for your School Board to start dismantling the departments of the school district in our community,” School  Board President Jim Hansen said. “Unfortunately, the school district alone will not be the loser, but the effects from this ‘no’ vote, our community will suffer as well” [Andrea J. Cook, “Voters Say a Loud ‘No’ to Tax Hike for Schools,” Rapid City Journal, 2015.06.02].

The disappointed school board and voters on either side of the opt-out issue have a chance to air their views again today. In remarkable timing, Governor Dennis Daugaard’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students meets this afternoon and evening in Rapid City at the Ramkota. Educators get to bend the BluRTFTS ears at 2:00 p.m. Businesspeople get their hearing at 4:00 p.m. The general public can talk to BluRTFTS at 6:30 p.m. Local legislators urged Rapid Citians to vote the opt-out down on the promise that BluRTFTS might do something about school funding. Let’s see if those legislators and the voters who listened to them show up at today’s BluRTFTS meetings to urge real action to address the Rapid City schools’ fiscal shortfall.

15 Responses to Board Prez Says Opt-Out Defeat Hurts Rapid City; Blue Ribboneers in Town

  1. Jim, here’s a hint. Dismantle the non-scholarly departments first. That will get you most of the way way to your goal. School is for scholarship. Everything else is extraneous riff-raff.

    You have a head start: the two-time state championship ice hockey team was never a boat-anchor on the schools finances or mission. Similarly is the case for the high school-aged baseball team. Now cut the rest of the non-scholarly, non-academic departments. Focus like a laser on adopting a ‘Denmark school model’. Good can and should come from this self-perceived dark cloud, but if you allow it and stop apparently seeking the counsel of your fears.

  2. Roger Elgersma

    I have seen to many con games from Republicans on funding schools. Rounds 2010 plan meant that the first years he did nothing because we felt ok that he would someday. So the last years he simply did not talk about it anymore since he was not going to do anything anyways. Now they say they might do more than study education and actually fund it. Either it is another smoke screen or they found that people really do not scream and yell when they fund roads and so they might come out of their little scared hole they dug themselves on no taxes and actually fund schools as well.
    The sad part is that all this façade of balancing the budget and being responsible is done on the funding from the federal government.
    This opt out had nothing to do with expanding education. It was only to keep up with inflation. If he state gives more money next year, it will not be enough to seriously increase education either, it will just make up for past cuts. So, still no gain.

  3. Donald Pay

    What is the actual law on school board participating in opt out discussions. My understanding was that “school boards” can’t participate in the debate over an opt out. I support that. But someone who is a school board member still has a constitutional right to speak out on the issue. He or she simply can’t speak on behalf of the school board. I hope no one thought they were gagged.

  4. Roger Cornelius

    Look for the Rapid City School Board to start making big cuts to the school budget, starting from the bottom up.

  5. I’m sad for the teachers and other staff that are going to lose their jobs in Rapid City. But maybe some good can come from this. Maybe, just maybe the people in this state will see the damage that the Tea Party fear mongers will have done.
    I know it’s a big maybe…….but MAYBE.

    Mitchell has a new mayor who campaigned on spending cuts. We’ll see what happens and what cuts will be made or proposed from the new mayor.

  6. Donald, I believe the relevant statute is SDCL 12-27-20:

    The state, an agency of the state, and the governing body of a county, municipality, or other political subdivision of the state may not expend or permit the expenditure of public funds for the purpose of influencing the nomination or election of any candidate, or for the petitioning of a ballot question on the ballot or the adoption or defeat of any ballot question. This section may not be construed to limit the freedom of speech of any officer or employee of the state or such political subdivisions in his or her personal capacity. This section does not prohibit the state, its agencies, or the governing body of any political subdivision of the state from presenting factual information solely for the purpose of educating the voters on a ballot question.

    As you say, the statute explicitly protects individual board members’ and school employees’ rights to participate in public discourse. When Superintendent Mitchell appeared at the Black Hills Forum and Press Club on March 27, he said state law prohibited him from doing anything more than presenting factual information about the budget and opt-out. If he was referring to SDCL 12-27-20, he may have been reading it too strictly, unless he was saying that he was basically on the clock for the school and that his making pro-opt-out comments over that lunch hour would constitute the school paying him to advocate.

  7. Ray Tysdal

    I attended the “Blue Ribbon” task force meeting last night in Rapid City which was run as a brainstorming session. For those who had never participated in this form of discussion (small, respectful groups which changed every ten minutes or so) it was exciting. For the rest of us…it was a gimmick. While the format encouraged citizens to be pro-active and propose solutions, it was not something that built much hope that something will be done, Why? Because it is not a new issue! For many it is a THIRTY-YEAR-OLD ISSUE! Teacher pay, funding, good education for all that teaches our youth to think, yadayadayada. We all want that and have for years. Granted, the format defused a lot of anger and allowed for a well-run discussion but those who have been in on this effort to make positive change in South Dakota’s educational policies and laws have every right to be skeptical. The overall current in the room was “FOR GOD’S SAKE, DO SOMETHING, EVEN IF IT IS WRONG!!” I agree with that…the task force is made of elected and appointed officials and state employees…aren’t they supposed to be competent leaders? While we can all hope for the best , at the end of the day, I am prepared to give the Republican-dominated task force and legislature a white ribbon for showing up and award them the trophy made from the same tin can they have been kicking down the road since tin cans were invented!

  8. Ray, thanks for that report! Were the rotating brainstorming sessions followed by a general reporting session to allow everyone in attendance to hear the main ideas generated? How many task force members were present? Did task force members (legislators and executive branch) participate in the small-group brainstorming?

  9. Ray Tysdal

    I would say that as a simple brainstorming session, it was very professionally done…one and a half hours on the button. Several members of the commission: Sen. Deb Soholt, Sioux Falls – Task-Force co-chair
    Rep. Jacqueline Sly, Rapid City – Task-Force co-chair, Sen. Craig Tieszen, Rapid City,Dr. Melody Schopp, SD Secretary of Education were on hand as were several local legislators: Phil Jensen, Lynne DiSanto, also several State employees in various departments. There were several others but I didn’t get their names. It seemed that some participated in the round tables…at least they sat there…none at one of my tables so I can’t speak to their participation. I overheard Lynne DiSanto say, when someone asked if the legislators had ever spent a day in a classroom while in office, “Ya, I’ve done that.” There were three sessions: educators, business and civic leaders and the public. All ideas were grouped according to topic and brief summary of all was given as to trends of priorities, potential funding, etc. Anyone who has ever done a brainstorming session like this knows that they seem productive at the time but if the sponsoring group is dysfunctional then the resulting changes are usually zero. Several citizens seemed to be miffed at not being allowed to question legislators directly on subjects such as Common Core. Maybe they should have been allowed to do that…only because the Republican Party needs to be ashamed of the lack of action on this subject for decades. We’ve been down this road far to often to be optimistic. The last time the GOP did something positive for education in South Dakota was when Janklow provided the computers in the 1990s…that’s also when we got the present funding formula and opt out provision which makes the school boards the bad guys when it is really the State Legislature that has dropped (and most likely lost the ball).

  10. Very interesting, Ray. I see that Bob Ellis has posted the three main questions posed to brainstormers:

    1. What possibilities are there for meaningfully funding K-12 education for our kids and our communities?
    2. When you think about funding schools in your local community, what is important to you?
    3. What ideas or new approaches might make those priorities more possible for schools in your community?

    Couldn’t the Common Core folks get creative and find a way to work their concerns into the answers to those questions? For instance, say that they could meaningfully fund K-12 ed by ending the meaningless Common Core testing and standards paperwork and putting that money into teaching salaries?

    Did you get any sense from the task force members and state officials there of how committed they are to listening to the ideas presented at last night’s session?

  11. was janklow’s push for kids or for fiber com ect?

  12. Roger Cornelius

    Ray’s reporting is on target with what I’ve been reading today on other sites.

    I do wonder how this Blue Ribbon Panel can have an honest discussion about education when it dominated and controlled by republican politicians?

  13. Ray Tysdal

    I got the idea that they THINK they are committed to listening and acting. We both know that when they start proposing the kind of change that is necessary to the entire legislature that the results could be anywhere from good (less than likely) to actually coming up with something worse than exists now. A community businessman at one of my tables said he had talked to the Governor last week and that Daugaard is determined to make something happen. Has he got the strength to do it is a big question…Dennis seems to be more of a steward than leader to me…nice guy when he should be pit bull. We need to hold our own legislators’ feet to the fire and make them understand that if they don’t do something positive and significant that it is their fault and no one else’s. A Rapid City middle-school teacher at one of my tables with 34 years in the system said that for the past two years she, for the first time, has been ashamed to be a teacher because she doesn’t get to teach only assess. The ideas proposed were sound…tax increases such as 3-month increase in summer sales tax to target tourist, income tax , tax on billboards, more community involvement, more emphasis on art and music especially in grade school (No art in elementary schools in Rapid City, now). But there was nothing new. Personally, I would like to see an across the board income tax of 5 per cent of what South Dakota pays in Federal income tax (we pay an estimated $6.3 billion Federally so 5% of that would be over $300 million) with the stipulation that to spend it on anything other than education would require a majority vote of the people. I don’t see a bunch of Republicans doing that anytime soon (ever). The Governor and legislators need to learn how to value and honor educators and make us proud of them and the system…every time one of them says that teachers don’t need more money because they get three months off each year needs to be shouted down and shamed into shutting their ignorant mouths!

  14. Roger Cornelius


    I don’t know how old you are and whether you not recall this, but back in the 1980’s when gambling was being legalized with the video slots, Deadwood and reservation casino’s, etc., the promoters of gambling promised that state gaming profits would go to education.
    As far as I know that never happened.
    Would you support an initiated measure demanding that gambling proceeds be put in a lock box for state education short falls?

  15. Daugaard determined to “make something happen”—Ray, that makes me nervous. He was determined to make something happen in 2012, and we got merit pay and destruction of continuing contract protections, an awful legal package that we had to refer and defeat. If the Governor really has such a determination, we need to get him to focus “something” down to “raise teacher pay,” with no strings or tricks.

    I really appreciate those policy details from the meeting, Ray. That’s what we need to hear, so we can see if the BluRTFTS takes any of those policy recommendations into consideration.