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SF School Board Race: Reiter Nails Stealth Voucher Question; Anderson May Help Defend Public Schools from Theocrats

My friends Bruce Danielson and Scott Ehrisman do us the favor of recording and posting Friday’s Sioux Falls School Board candidates’ forum hosted by the Democratic Forum. My friend Jim Sanden does voters the favor of challenging the candidates with a tough question (around 21:40) about a specific state law negatively affecting public schools in Sioux Falls and around the state: stealth vouchers, the sneaky plan proposed by an insurance salesman’s wife to give insurance salesmen tax rebates for funneling money to Christian schools. Our theocratic Legislature and Pastor Kristi Noem expanded that program’s spending limits this year, meaning more taxpayer dollars are being used to instill in children the virtues of worshipping one particular deity.

Constitutional watchdog Sanden asked the four women running for the school board how they feel about stealth vouchers and what they would do to mobilize the entire school board to resist “those kinds of encroachments on the South Dakota Constitution.”

The only candidate who provided a focused and specific response to the question was two-term incumbent Carly Reiter. The others—challengers Lora Hubbel, Sarah Anderson, and Nan Baker—offered a combination of talking around the issue and branching off to other issues they felt more prepared to address.

Reiter (third at the table from left to right in Cameraman Bruce’s frame, and third to address Sanden’s question) spoke knowledgeably, directly, and solely to the question. She referred to the district’s unsuccessful effort to lobby against the bill (Reiter said “last couple of years”; Heineman originally floated her stealth vouchers in 2015; her handout to her husband and insurance cronies passed in 2016). Reiter emphasized that the public schools uniquely commit to teaching every child, regardless of their academic performance, ability or disability, race, religion, whatever, and thus need taxpayer support. Private schools, Reiter reminded us, pick their students and thus do not reflect the full public interest. She said that she would support efforts to undo the stealth vouchers.

In her lead-off response, Lora Hubbel said not one word about stealth vouchers. She spoke of her experience in the Legislature (which happened three years prior to the proposal of stealth vouchers). She spoke of her frustration with the Legislature’s appalling disregard for the state constitution and said she got reprimanded for trying to bring constitutional points to the Legislature’s attention. As an example of unconstitutional action in South Dakota, Hubbel turned to corporate farms, which she said our state constitution bans but which we nonetheless have in South Dakota. (Hubbel ignores Judge Charles Kornmann’s reminder from just two weeks ago that he overturned that ban as a violation of the U.S. Constitution in 2002; the 1998 voter-approved ban lingers in our state constitution as a judicially mooted vestige of our once-successful anti-corporate urges.)

Hubbel said her matchless care for the constitution is reflected by her stint in the Constitution Party. That claim should not weigh in this debate, because every political party seeks to uphold the Constitution. If anything, Hubbel’s association with the Constitution Party should weigh against her claim to a seat on the Sioux Falls school board, because Hubbel’s stint in the Constitution Party was marred by the party’s inability to follow its own bylaws, failure to legally place any candidates on the 2018 ballot, and loss of recognized party status in South Dakota. And with respect to Sanden’s question, waving the Constitution Party flag should raise a red flag, because the Constitution Party views public education in general as evil Marxism and Communism. The CP claims to oppose federal school vouchers, but it advocates “equitable tax relief for families whose children do not attend government schools”… which sounds like just a different flavor of South Dakota’s stealth vouchers, draining money from public schools to support private schools.

Hubbel said she agrees with Sanden that the Constitution matters, but she ignored—and, from her CP profession, appears to diametrically oppose—the practical focus of Sanden’s question, the basic mandate a public school board member must fulfill, to keep public education strong.

Following Lora Hubbel, Sarah Anderson said that as a newcomer she has “listened to Legislative Sessions, during work…” which I wouldn’t say with my boss listening and which I also do not do, since my job is not with the LRC. (Anderson works remotely for a Minnesota hospital, but there’s no such thing as multi-tasking; there’s just doing lots of jobs in little ineffective bits.) Anderson said “we need all the money we can get,” but then drifted off to talk about “overreach” by the Legislature on social issues. Anderson is spot on; the Legislature does overreach, as with rookie Rep. Kaleb Weis’s absurd and soundly defeated teacher code of silence, which Anderson seemed to reference in her remarks. I deeply appreciate Anderson’s clearheaded rejection of the Legislature’s anti-educational monkey-wrenching of public education, and the stealth vouchers Sanden asked about are certainly part of the monkey-wrenching that Anderson would need to oppose from a board seat. Anderson made no specific comment on the specific and pressing policy issue that Sanden raised, reflecting a lack of knowledge about the Legislature prior to the 2019 Session.

Nan Baker went last and said she didn’t want to belabor the issue raised… and thus raced right off to her apparently better prepared tangent on opt-outs. Baker said nothing wrong—allowing districts to opt out of the state’s arbitrary throttlings of public education. But Baker sounds like she’s trying to shoehorn her debate prep on school finance into a response that should have focused more clearly on the specific issue the speaker raised.

There’s much more for Sioux Falls voters to view in this forum to inform their choices in Tuesday’s election (yes, choices, plural—don’t forget you’re picking two board members!). But on this particular question of defending public education from the encroachment of theocrats who view the Sioux Falls School Board and public school administrators and teachers as the enemy, incumbent Carly Reiter is clearly prepared to fight the battle a position on the board obliges any member to fight. She clearly enunciates why stealth vouchers—public money for exclusive religious schools—is bad policy. Voters may give Sarah Anderson partial credit for expressing a general philosophy and approach that provide the basis for supporting Reiter and the board and every student in Sioux Falls and South Dakota against the scourge of stealth vouchers. Baker, alas, strikes out with a reasonable but generic response that by itself does not sufficiently commit Baker to fighting the problem the questioner posed. Hubbel’s response ignores the issue entirely, and raises an issue of partisan affiliation that suggests opposition to the very mission of Sioux Falls public schools.

17 Comments

  1. Certain Inflatable Recreational Devices 2019-05-19

    Lora Hubbel was nuts in the legislature. And if there is an ironically-named political party it is the “Constitution” Party. Anyone who puts her anywhere near kids should be prosecuted for enabling child abuse.

  2. Tara Volesky 2019-05-19

    Ok Pat. Whatever you say.

  3. Kurt Evans 2019-05-19

    “Certain Inflatable Recreational Devices” had written:

    … if there is an ironically-named political party it is the “Constitution” Party.

    The Constitution Party isn’t named ironically.

    Anyone who puts [Lora Hubbel] anywhere near kids should be prosecuted for enabling child abuse.

    It’s ironic when a nominal libertarian suggests citizens of a democratic republic should be criminally prosecuted for their votes.

    Tara Volesky responds:

    Ok Pat. Whatever you say.

    I’m pretty sure that’s Bob Newland, not Pat Powers, but they’re similar in the sense that the only liberties about which they really seem to care are their own.

  4. Tara Volesky 2019-05-19

    Kurt, I think if it was Bob Newland, he would state his name. PP got backfired on again. Last week he went after Theresa Stehly. This weeks flavor of the week is Lora Hubbel. lol.

  5. Donald Pay 2019-05-19

    My recommendation: defeat anyone who doesn’t fight vouchers.

    Wisconsin has had vouchers for decades. They started out as a way to improve education. That failed, largely because all of the checks and balances available in the public school system were never applied to vouchers. Lots of taxpayer dollars wasted.

    These schools are not transparent and, by the way, you can’t vote for the board members. If church schools take public money, their operations should be required to meet state standards and allow the public to control their operations. Taxation without representation leads to corruption.

    Voucher schools in Wisconsin have been a cesspool of corruption, though our current Governor did a lot to clean up the corruption when he was Superintendent of Public Instruction. The Republican Party gets paid off by the voucher operations, so they have a reason to keep these folks around and expand them, sucking more dollars away from public education. The biggest accomplishment of voucher schools is how they’ve drained money from public schools and degraded public education, which has been a goal of some of the nutcases in the Republican Party.

  6. grudznick 2019-05-19

    Ms. Volesky, my good friend Bob is a sly libertarian, he is. Mr. Evans is right about Bob and I liking our own liberties the best.

  7. Debbo 2019-05-19

    What hasn’t Hubbell run for? Seems like a CP thing. They like to run for lots of offices.

  8. Anne Beal 2019-05-19

    Whatever one’s opinion of vouchers, private education, homeschoolers, etc, it seems a waste of time for public school boards to concern themselves with students they don’t educate, teachers they don’t hire, curriculae they don’t approve and purchase.
    Complaining about “stealth” vouchers as if that money rightfully belongs to the schools (it doesn’t; it belongs to people who earned it until it becomes taxes payable, then the state does whatever it wants with it) just makes you look ridiculous. The purpose of public education is not to provide jobs for teachers and administrators, it is to provide education for the students. The fewer teachers required to get the job done, the better. Homeschooling, in particular, takes some of the financial burden off the taxpayers, and if the private schools can accomplish that at lower cost to the taxpayers, too, that’s great. Sputtering about transparency and corruption in private education doesn’t fool anybody, all you really care about is your own job security.

    And stop pestering school boards about legislation they don’t like. Unless you want them to cut some teaching positions and hire lobbyists (now there’s a plan!) school board members have more pressing problems to attend to.

  9. Lora 2019-05-20

    Cory, you usually get the facts correct (although we sometimes differ on the outcome) …but you did not get the facts right on the Constitution party fiasco… You have called and visited with me in the past (unlike Little PP who has never talked to me). So give me a call about what happened to the CPSD….I can enlighten you. And Stealth Vouchers? I don’t think anyone liked that legislation. I have never heard it called that ….and I have yet to hear that SD has a voucher system for schools. Wasn’t it just a crony gift to insurance companies?

  10. Donald Pay 2019-05-20

    Unfortunately, Anne Beal’s post contains a lot of misinformation.

    Her first sentence neglects the point that school boards are assigned the duty to be concerned about all students in their district, not just the ones attending public school. As a school board member I had to vote to excuse students who were home-schooled or attended parochial schools from attending public schools. In the case of home-schooled students that had to be done without any backing information. Some of those home schooled students were known truants who got their parents to say they were home schooled. Under state law, we had no ability to question the adequacy of their “home school.” Many public school boards end up being state-mandated to support child neglect. That’s how cockeyed South Dakota’s laws on this are, or at least, were on this when I was on the school board.

    Public schools often enroll students that come from other learning environments. Home schooled students move back and forth into and out of public school. The same thing happens with parochial school students. Integrating such students into public school is part of the cost and challenge public schools face. Public schools also have been tasked to provide curriculum materials to other schools if requested. Public schools have an interest in making sure students are adequately educated in other environments because they are concerned about all students.

    State aid to education doesn’t fund public education adequately, thus bleeding off some state money into “vouchers” strips money from public schools students. In Wisconsin, vouchers have metastasized into a second public school system in urban areas and drained resources from rural districts. State taxpayers complain about paying for two school systems, when one should be all they are paying for under the Constitution. When vouchers started out, it was a small program meant to address a specific educational failure in one school district. Now it’s a welfare program for the wealthy. It’s hurts public schools and taxpayers resent that their tax money goes to folks who have no accountability. Since property taxes are also tied into state aid to public schools in Wisconsin as in South Dakota, vouchers have increased property taxes, as districts rush to make of the money lost through vouchers.

    And, come on, Anne, don’t assume we are as dumb as you are. Any one with any sense would understand that the costs of a teacher for 19 students is the same as providing a teacher for 20 students. There are inelastic costs that must be met even if that one home-schooled student is not in that teacher’s class.

  11. Steve Pearson 2019-05-20

    The term “stealth voucher” is intellectually dishonest and just another example of Cory writing his personal political biased view on anything in SD.

  12. Southsider 2019-05-20

    If you want to know how vouchers and charter schools really work, just take a look at Arizona. There, the legislature is having a nearly impossible time putting the genie back in the bottle. Dozens of schools up and close each and every year due to mismanagement of public funds, leaving students, teachers, and parents scrambling at the drop of a hat. Meanwhile, the owners and administrators of these “schools” take in literally millions of dollars in salary each year.

    The most glaring example, Primavera online high school, paid it’s CEO roughly 8.8 Million dollars last year alone. All state money. All with zero accountability. Is this what anyone wants for SD children OR taxpayers?

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-05-20

    It pretends to be a rebate, but it’s a sneaky way to provide vouchers from the public coffers to religious schools. Steve, please substantiate how my explanation misrepresents what the stealth vouchers do.

    (Notice also that again Steve Pearson plays tough with the insults trying discredit people who say things he doesn’t like but always falls short of supporting his point.)

  14. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-05-20

    And beyond, that, Steve, how about rendering an opinion on the candidates’ responses? Should public school board members support diverting public funds to religious schools?

  15. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-05-20

    I particularly appreciate Donald’s point about the unique burden the public schools face in accepting students whenever they change situations. Private schools are under no obligation to admit anyone anytime. If a kid does homeschool for a couple months, then the parents’ situation or motivation changes and they want to send their kids back to public school, the public school has to and will say, “O.K., send ’em in!” To accommodate every student, public schools are perfectly justified in fighting for every dollar available and opposing any diversion to selective religious schools.

  16. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-05-21

    And Tara, come on: you have to admit that Lora did not answer the question posed and that her CP Party response to the question posed would be the opposite of what Sanden wanted. The CP would say, “Less money for public schools? Hey, great! Pour all that cash back to private schools!”

  17. Tara Volesky 2019-05-21

    I can’t answer for Lora other then there is no longer a Constitution Party in SD. I was in Sioux Falls today and she blew me off because she was doing last minute campaigning. I commend her for her hard work and door to door.

Comments are closed.