Ping. Ping. Ping-ping-ping-ping-ping-ping-ping-ping—
Rep. Isaac Latterell (R-6/a P.O. Box in Tea) sets off the B.S. meter with this ad misportraying himself as a defender of education:
Rep. Latterell claims that he is “Prioritizing Education Funding.” Horsehockey—during the 2016 Session, Latterell prime-sponsored one abortion bill and three resolutions (including a call for an Article V convention), none dealing with education. In 2015, Latterell offered three abortion bills, a fireworks bill, and a another Article V convention resolution. In 2014, Latterell prime-sponsored two abortion bills, four other non-education bills, and another Article V resolution. In 2013, Latterell wrote just one bill on elderly dementia. Rep. Latterell’s bills and resolutions over his last two terms in Pierre show he’s expended far more energy waging war on women and issuing faux-Minuteman calls to rewrite the Constitution than funding education.
Rep. Latterell claims that he voted during the 2016 Session to increase teacher pay to $48,500. When did he cast that vote? It certainly wasn’t on House Bill 1182, the half-penny sales tax that is funding the Governor’s plan to raise K-12 teacher pay to a statewide average of $48,500. Rep. Latterell voted to block that funding in four roll call votes. Only after the Governor secured victory on that funding source did Rep. Latterell surrender and vote for Senate Bill 131, the funding formula that set the target salary of $48,500. But even in that surrender, Rep. Latterell couldn’t vote for SB 131 without voting for the Sly Amendment, which hurt schools with declining enrollment and, by my calculations, prevents us from reaching the formula’s teacher salary goal.
Rep. Latterell further undermined the Governor’s goal of raising teacher pay with his vote on Senate Bill 159, the stealth vouchers plan. The same day that he cast his grudging vote for the new K-12 funding formula, he supported the final House vote to raid two million dollars from public school funding to subsidize religious schools. If Rep. Latterell is prioritizing education, it certainly isn’t public education.
Rep. Latterell touts his support for House Bill 1130, Rep. Lance Russell’s (R-30/Hot Springs) teacher-pay plan that didn’t survive its first committee hearing. I appreciated the cleanness of the bill, but former appropriator Susan Wismer noted the bill was an overly simplistic plan that demanded later, harmful budget cuts. Latterell thus signed onto a plan that clearly was going nowhere; his subsequent votes on the sole passable funding mechanism on the table showed he was not prioritizing education.
Latterell is like most members of the majority in Pierre: they send out ads and postcards boasting that they (and Drew’s fiancé?) strongly support education, but their voting records show chronic neglect, distraction, and disrespect that left South Dakota teachers at the bottom of the nation in pay for three decades. Even this year, Republicans had to be dragged kicking and screaming to support a half-measure that leaves South Dakota teacher pay in last place in the region while increasing the regressive burden of South Dakota’s taxes (another issue about which Rep. Latterell gives not one practical darn).