DiSanto Prefers School Consolidation!
State legislators Phil Jensen, Lance Russell, Blaine Campbell, and Lynne DiSanto staged a press conference yesterday to express their opposition to the Rapid City Area Schools property tax opt-out, on which Rapid Citians are voting today.
Wait a minute: Rep. Russell is from Hot Springs. Is he allowed to come politick on an opt-out vote in a district he does not represent? [Correction 12:47 CDT: Russell does represent a chunk of RCAS! As local geographer Curt points out in our lead-off comment, District 30 wanders right up into the southern range of the Rapid City school district.]
In the press release from media event hosts Smarter Solutions for Students, none of the legislators express any opposition to the idea of Rapid City residents spending more money on students in and of itself. Instead, curiously, they warn that they themselves will likely head back to Pierre and raise taxes on everybody:
State Representative Russell stated his opposition to the opt-out issue is due to their concern over impending tax increases that are rumored to be coming from the state legislator’s blue ribbon task force on education. Russell stated that he felt the public has a right to know of the potential impending tax increases from the state, prior to voting on a $30 million opt-out property tax increase locally. Russell challenged Governor Daugaard to “level with the voters of Rapid City prior to such a large property tax increase,” stating that he felt the Governor was not being forthcoming in regards to resolving the state education issues [Smarter Solutions for Students, press release, 2015.06.01].
So Rapid City voters face a definite budget shortfall with definite staff and program cuts in their schools, but Russell, DiSanto, and company say Rapid Citians should vote instead on potential tax hikes rumored in Pierre?
I’m not sure how this argument plays well for the legislators involved. Either they are affirming Senator Jensen’s Session-ending assessment that legislators, themselves included, are mostly ineffective puppets who couldn’t stop a gubernatorial tax hike if they wanted, or they are telling voters that they themselves plan to vote for a state tax increase and don’t want a local opt-out to drain the bucket of cash and political will and make their vote harder. In either case, the legislators are making a good case for electing new legislators.
Rep. DiSanto confuses matters further:
Representative DiSanto said, in opposition to the opt-out, that the Governor’s recommendation of an opt-out as a solution to local education problems is “not going about it the right way;”… [SSS, 2015.06.01].
Rep. DiSanto goes to Pierre as part of the SDGOP “no new taxes” clique, does nothing in her first session in Pierre to tackle the Legislature’s generation-spanning neglect of K-12 funding that has put Rapid City and most other South Dakota schools under enormous financial pressure, and she says the only option the Legislature and the Governor have left for local districts is not the right way to keep teachers in the classrooms? What is the right way, Rep. DiSanto?
“I think we really need to seriously take a look at the number of districts we have here in South Dakota and possibly talk about doing some consolidation in some areas where it would make sense,” said DiSanto [“Legislators Urge a ‘No’ on Opt Out,” KOTA-TV, updated 2015.06.02].
Rep. DiSanto can’t brook putting more resources into education. Rather than allowing her neighbors to invest more money in the second-largest school district in the state, she wants her neighbors to let their schools suffer for a year and hope that a politically unsalable plan will allow them to raid the budgets of smaller school districts. Don’t plant more crops; just turn cannibal—why does that not sound like a Smarter Solution for Students?
Rapid City voters, maybe you can come up with some good reasons for voting against the opt-out today. But these four legislators aren’t giving you any.