Contrary to concerns that Rep. Elizabeth May and I expressed, the new Board of Technical Education allowed by Amendment R and created by Senate Bill 65 won’t create a bunch of new costs by itself. However, big vo-tech board backer Rep. G. Mark Mickelson (R-13/Sioux Falls) says the new board will advocate for more money for South Dakota’s four technical institutes, perhaps to the tune of $9 million:
“I view their authority as funding advocacy for the technical institutes,” Mickelson said. “We don’t need them to tell us how to teach a class. We need them to go get us more money.”
The next step, he said, is present the funding case to the new board “and ask them to make that a priority and submit a report to the governor.”
…He estimated that reducing the South Dakota tuition and fees to about $180 per credit hour—the approximate price across the border at a technical school in Sheldon, Iowa—would take $9 million [Bob Mercer, “New Board of Technical Education Comes Amid Desire for More Funds,” Watertown Public Opinion, 2017.04.15].
$9 million—hmmm… maybe all the businesses (like the burgeoning construction industry, which enjoyed a hiring boomlet last year even as agriculture foundered) counting on the state to do their job training for them could rummage around in their office couches and come up with amount to subsidize vo-tech tuition.
Rep. Mickelson says money is short for tech-school advocacy:
“No one gets paid to think about advocating for the technical schools,” he said [Mercer, 2017.04.15].
That statement suggests Mickelson has caught a little Trump-Alzheimer’s. Dozens of businesses contributed to the Tech Schools for South Dakota pro-Amendment R campaign, which paid someone $458,000 ($5,258.47 in 2015, $22,894.77 pre-primary, $263,457.20 pre-general, $166,858.15 year-end 2016) to think about advocating for the technical schools. And this year, Republican friend Will Mortenson lobbied for the tech schools and the “Skilled Workforce Advocacy Council” to speak up for SB 65… a fact Mickelson should know, since Mickelson would have checked Morternson’s references before hiring him to lobby for Mickelson’s own campaign finance bill. (Mickelson must not have paid as well as the vo-techs; his HB 1200 failed in Senate Judiciary.)
Some quick math: if the total cost of a vo-tech degree is around $15,000, then the value of the 600 full-ride scholarships awarded in two years of the Build Dakota program is $9 million. For the same price, using Mickelson’s math, we could have reduced tuition to compete with Iowa for all 6,500 students in the vo-tech system each year.