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David Novstrup Shuffles Around Inadequate K-12 Funding Plans, Says We Have Too Many Teachers

Aberdeen teacher Teresa Markley rose at Saturday’s Aberdeen crackerbarrel to ask how Republican legislators could tell us for thirty years that there’s no money to boost teacher pay, then come forward this year to say there is money in the budget for the Blue Ribbon plan. “I really don’t think that the answer is to rob Peter to pay Paul,” said Markley.

Senator David Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen) acknowledged he’d been dodging specifics in e-mails to Markley. He spent eight minutes trying to explain that state surpluses and other no-tax options could fund teacher pay:

Referring to Bob Mercer’s summary of five plans, Senator Novstrup says Rep. Brian Gosch’s plan is the most viable. Mercer notes that the two plans not raising taxes fail to provide clear funding sources to support competitive teacher pay after this fiscal year. Fidgeting through the papers someone handed him to read, Senator Novstrup says the “overappropriations” are as sustainable for K-12 funding as they are now for social services.

Senator Novstrup says the Governor has “a lot more resources and expertise,” which one would think would mean he would defer to the Governor’s plan over Rep. Gosch’s plan, but Senator Novstrup appeals to that executive expertise to assure us that if the Legislature rejects the Governor’s plan, the Governor will be able to come up with a better plan. Senator Novstrup’s professed lack of expertise does not stop him from assuring us all that “we will make this work… I just have 100% confidence in that” (a banner example of my frustration as an English teacher with speakers who use this and that with unclear antecedents).

After more nervous riffling through his papers, Senator Novstrup then launches into a recitation of declining student numbers and increasing staff numbers. “I’m not saying this is bad, but it’s just interesting data,” says Senator Novstrup. Maybe not bad, but…

When our K-12 enrollment is going down and our staff is going up, it’s an awkward, weird trend that needs to be explained. It just doesn’t make sense, because, and I know education is not business, so don’t take it this way, but if you’re in business and your customers are getting less and less, you have to have less staff because you don’t have the resources to have it. So I’m not saying any teachers should be fired. I’m not saying that, but through retirements we can get to a number that makes sense [Senator David Novstrup, Aberdeen crackerbarrel, 2016.02.20].

David, you are saying the increase in staff is bad. You are saying getting rid of staff would be good. You are saying we need fewer teachers. And to boot, you are saying “customers” are getting less from South Dakota’s schools… but I’ll let SDEA put out the press release correcting you on that issue.

Senator Novstrup emphasizes his desire to cut staff back to 1995 or 1970 levels by saying that a good teacher is the number-one factor in student success:

If you have a good teacher with a larger class size, they can have those kids achieve more than a poor teacher in a very small class. Once again, I’m not saying small-school teachers are bad, but I’m just saying that if you have a great teacher, they can teach more kids in a classroom and achieve more [Senator David Novstrup, Aberdeen crackerbarrel, 2016.02.20].

Learn to when to stop digging, David. The only salvageable, campaign-postcard-ready statement you’re making here is that good teachers matter, and that brings us right back to the whole point of the teacher-pay debate: if South Dakota doesn’t pay competitive wages, South Dakota won’t attract good teachers.

Fortunately, a teacher who was in the classroom in 1970 rose a few questions later to correct David’s fallacious comparison to 1970 education enrollment and staffing levels:

Dropout target rates have changed, required attendance ages have risen, and socioeconomic factors have placed more burdens on the schools. Our public school “customers” really are getting more than they did in 1970. And as I have said, every adult in the school represents additional services and opportunities for our kids. Senator Novstrup, when you are ready to outline the services and opportunities you want to take away from our kids, please share that plan with the voting public. But for now, put your shuffle points away and focus on solving the problem at hand: funding competitive wages to recruit and retain top teachers for South Dakota’s public schools.


  1. Deb Hobert 2016-02-22 10:08

    Keep holding them accountable, Cory! They really want to take SD back to “Little School on the Prairie.” Wish I could vote for you!

  2. Jenny 2016-02-22 10:37

    After hearing these legislators speak like Haggar and Verchio, I just can’t believe why S Dakotans keep voting duds like these in. Dysfunctional, stingy old farts come to mind. They whine and moan about a half cent sales tax. Am I missing something here, is that just going to ruin working class SD? It’s not going to food correct?
    They are so disturbed that the 107 million that this tax increase will raise will all go to schools. What the hell? What about the millions missing from EB-5 and the Mid Dakota Coop scandal? I don’t think they ‘family values’ party of SD can get any more hypocritical. Wake up SD, wake up. You deserve better/

  3. Madman 2016-02-22 10:42

    They vote for folks like this because of the abortion issue. Every election year that comes up as an issue, although its been decided for decades.

  4. Jenny 2016-02-22 10:47

    South Dakotans need to move on from their fetus obsession. Even the good Catholic nuns are fighting more pertinent issues.

  5. mike from iowa 2016-02-22 11:16

    with unclear antecedents Gotcha! You deliberately misspelled antacids,didn’t you?

  6. mike from iowa 2016-02-22 11:20

    Could it be wingnuts 30 plus years of cavalier attitudes towards education and their personal disdain for teaching professionals that leads to declining enrollments in K-12? Nah,Benda did it.

  7. Daniel Buresh 2016-02-22 11:22

    Too many admins and too many schools that are robbing kids from other schools that should have closed years ago.

  8. Sam@ 2016-02-22 13:12

    Schools need to find place to cut. South according to a Sioux Falls TV station 14 states have a lower cost per student to educate and we are 50th in Teacher pay. With what my property taxes have went over the past five years there is enough money to increase the 40,000 high salary teachers receive.

    Throwing more money at this issue is the liberal way to hide a problem.

    To many admins is a good starting place.

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-02-22 13:54

    Daniel, we can talk about consolidation, but nobody in Pierre has the courage to talk about it, not directly, and not in this election year. Governor Daugaard only gently ratchets up the pressure for consolidation with his new funding formula based on student-teacher ratio targets.

    Sam, I’ve run the numbers, and we don’t have much admin bloat. You consolidate a bunch of admins, beyond what may be wise, and you still only free up maybe $10M for teacher pay. (Search my comments, and you can find the math somewhere!)

    As Rep. Schoenbeck said in floor debate last week, throwing more money into K-12 budgets to raise wages is the free-market way to solve this problem.

  10. Kris 2016-02-22 13:59

    cory my roomies tell me you sold out dude! you runnen with the man if yer in with the big partys. they all corrupt !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! we nede change dude! big change!!!!!!!!!!

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-02-22 14:03

    Kris, you remain detached from reality and from the topic at hand. Smoke less, focus more.

  12. mike from iowa 2016-02-22 14:28

    Master,your latest posting has no comment portal.

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-02-22 16:15

    Sorry about that! Can you access comments now?

  14. mike from iowa 2016-02-22 16:51

    Yes,yes we can.

  15. Mary, Quite Contrary 2016-02-24 07:27

    How is it that the voters think this type of representative will do a “good” job in Pierre? IMO, this particular gentleman is not exactly up to the job that is required of a legislator. And to think this is what is running our state. I know that is not very flattering, but I bet if he reviewed the tape himself, he would think it wasn’t very flattering either. Needless to say, his presentation provided no concrete information and made no sense. I have been wondering what is “the deal” with the legislators out there (Pierre) and now I know. Seventy percent of them probably need to be voted out.

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-02-24 12:48

    Mary, I concur with your assessment. I want a legislator who can speak effectively, who can marshal solid logic and data and examples into a convincing presentation. I also want a Senator who talks like a leader, who is on top of issues, can explain them to voters, and can say, “Here’s how I’m voting and here’s why.” I didn’t see much of that from my Senator on Saturday.

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