I noted Friday that Governor Noem has burned up $3.5 million in federal coronavirus relief on our Department of Tourism, which I guarantee is not working on a vaccine, distributing masks, or helping with testing and contact tracing.
Stephen Groves of AP notes that Governor Noem has shunted $4.5 million to pay Highway Patrol salaries and benefits, money which was already budgeted and which, in normal policing operations, isn’t really targeted at coronavirus relief.
The Legislature’s auditor and the House Speaker seem alarmed:
…the Legislature’s auditor Bob Christianson warned lawmakers that it is not clear what exactly can be claimed under the federal relief fund. He cautioned against “aggressive” claims and pointed out that the Treasury has advsied that the money can only cover salaries for employees “substantially dedicated towards COVID.”
“It’s cause a lot of concern by the auditors on whether or not this is what was intended,” he said.
…Speaker Steve Haugaard, a Sioux Falls Republican, said that paying for the police was a “stretch” of what Congress intended the money to be used for. He hoped lawmakers would come up with a way to help struggling businesses with the money, but said that anything unnecessary should be sent back to the federal government [Stephen Groves, “South Dakota Federal Coronavirus Funds Go to Law Enforcement,” AP via U.S. News and World Report, 2020.07.24].
But Governor Noem’s budget chief Liza Clark assures us they can spend coronavirus cash on cops:
Clark countered that warning, saying the state is so confident that police officers are covered under the federal funding that it is working with the Treasury to pay salaries for court service officers, prison guards, and parole officers [Groves, 2020.07.24].
Does no one in Pierre understand how to respond to a crisis? Tourism, cops, and parole officers aren’t curing coronavirus. Haugaard’s suggestion that we hand the CARES Act money to private businesses or just send it back to Washington aren’t much better. The most pressing public service crisis created by coronavirus appears to be the inability to reopen schools safely for normal classes in the fall. We desperately need to pour money into our local school districts so they can hire more teachers so they can spread the kids out, expand and improve online teaching, and reduce the risk of coronavirus spikes. But the Governor and everyone around her look like they are trying to think of every way they can to keep that money out of our schools and in the pockets of their ideologically preferred constituencies.
Schools are important. People who work with schools think they are the most important. Businesses are important. People who work with businesses think they are the most important. Farmers are important. People who work with farmers think they are the most important.
We are probably going to have to have the legislatures weigh in on this topic, and let the lobbists run wild in the hallways and fight it out.
grudznick is in favor of dividing the money all up and handing it to each South Dakotan.
“But the Governor and everyone around her look like they are trying to think of every way they can to keep that money out of our schools and in the pockets of their ideologically preferred constituencies.”
Kind of reminds me of how the Trump administration is running the federal government. At all levels, grifters are gonna grift.
Aren’t kids mandated by statute to attend schools? Businesses not so much.
If kids have to be in school, one, perhaps, might think schools are important enough to be fully funded to learn the little darlings all them liberal artsy things they’ll need to know for the time they surely will exit South Dakota for greener, more lucrative pastures.
I was just told by Ben Jones: “In DoE we have set up a process to spend $41 million for K-12 and the funds are approved for many of the districts. More than 100 districts now have clearance to reimburse COVID expenses.” So I asked him about masks, etc., and he said, “Such decisions belong with boards and they are sorting that out. If they want to spend some of their CARES ACT funds on masks they certainly can.”
So I said:
“If they want to spend some of their CARES ACT funds on masks they certainly can.” Since nothing in South Dakota is mandated, and it’s up to the boards, that means that some things are not going to be done that people want. Thus the Sioux Falls School District is “encouraging” but not mandating masks for children and teachers, and will not supply masks. Which means those are going to have to come (like so many other supplies) out of the teachers’ pockets. Not to mention the constant cleaning that will be required – wanna bet who’s going to be doing a lot of that? One more job for the teachers. Unless some $$ is specifically ponied up for teachers’ aides and/or more janitorial staff.
And then there’s the major problem – that no one is talking about – how do you teach the same number of students, using social distancing, in the same number of classrooms, using the same number of teachers? It can’t be done. Unless, of course, the schools are going to run 24/7 so that you can have classrooms with 9 – 12 students in shifts. Again, though – you need more teachers to do that. And teachers’ aides. And staff. And janitorial.
And then let’s talk about school buses. All those kids, without masks, on school buses – are they really going to keep silent, and not yell and shout across social distance? No. Are they (especially middle school) going to run around and throw stuff at each other and get in each other’s seats? Yes.
There’s a whole host of issues that so far as I’ve seen have had no public discussion at all, and no request for public input. And certainly – from what I’ve heard – no request for input from teachers or retired teachers, who know what the real pitfalls are.
Meanwhile, law enforcement doesn’t need coronavirus $$ in South Dakota. We need more testing, more labs, more personnel. And we also need to quit using coronavirus $$ for ads for tourism and to lure businesses away from our neighboring states. The last thing we need is more COVID refugees and COVID tourists.
I wasn’t able to check DFP yesterday, so as I’m reading through 2 days of posts now, it’s so striking what a rudderless mess SD is! “Encouraging, suggesting, may be,” etc.
That’s just a basket case. The cummulation highlights in the state, just as it does nationwide, how lethal the complete absence of any kind of leadership or direction is.
Except for Democratic led states, the others are merely geographic collections of people wandering about in a highly infectious wilderness. I have never, ever witnessed such a pathetic condition in the USA.
Pootie must be so proud of his boy.
Has Kristi Noem been leading on anything this year? Is she driving any sort of real public conversation? Has she offered any big new policy initiatives, or does her daily schedule consist entirely of reaction, Trump pandering, and self-promotion?
The last, Cory. Only the last.