SDDP Blogs about Shall. Although, the thoughts are a little Shall-low

Don Carr (who thinks I don't like him despite never having met him) blogged over at the SDDP on how the Republican plan for additional education funding was supposedly weak, because it didn't use the word shall:
Republican sponsored legislation is littered with intent with nary a shred of shall. Their intent when writing legislation is to pay lip service to their constituents while hoping to protect the status quo. Democrat bills are designed to forge creative solutions to ever evolving challenges.

A glaring example of this practice can be found by comparing the two major education bills of the 2006 session.

SB 170, the Republican’s attempt to fund education..... Look at Section 3 - It is the intent of the Legislature to appropriate additional funds to the twenty-first century education fund in future years as follows. Check out SB 170’s amendment - Section 3. It is the intent of the Legislature to appropriate additional funds to the twenty-first century education fund in future years.

SB170CI the amended version, demonstrates Democratic influence by including several shalls.

and...

With SB 120, Democrats wielded shall to fully fund education without raising taxes and by reigning in the growth of state government. The only shall on the Republican side is their commitment to bigger government that does not address challenges facing South Dakotans.
(You SHALL read it all here)

As I'm told, the State Budget currently has about 50- 51% of the state's budget dedicated to education. In response to the Democratic plan, I'd have to say that the $64,000 question is "how much money is enough?"

If Republicans in the legislature passed the Democrats' measure, do you think Superintendents would come to the legislature next year and say "Thanks. We're good now." Would SDEA jump up and down in glee and say "You've finally done it, and we'll never come and ask you for money again." No. And to imagine it would be so is much more pollyannish than even I could be accused of being.

Republicans at least have enough fiscal restraint to understand the well is not bottomless. Yes, Republicans have kids too, and we would like them to have the best education possible. With six kids, and a wife involved in education, I'm included in that group more than many people.

But I also recognize the tax well is not bottomless. And those tax dollars are not monopoly currency. Tax dollars come out of the pockets of people,.

Should the courts decide how much is enough for education? It's doubtful that they can. They've tried it before. US News and World Report touched on the very topic about a year ago -
...critics argue that courts are usurping the role of lawmakers with arbitrary cost estimates that may prove impossible for cash-strapped states and cities to fund. Moreover, they say, money alone will do little to ensure quality schooling. "It makes logical sense that more money would improve the education, but there is no empirical evidence that says putting in more money, without changing the accountability structures, gets better results," says University of Washington education expert Paul Hill.

A favorite example among school-finance skeptics is Kansas City, Mo., where a court-mandated funding boost in a 1985 desegregation case led to famously lavish school facilities but did little to improve test results. "The real disaster is that legislatures will now be focused on finding the money to pay when they should be looking to spend the money in a better way," says Eric Hanushek, an education economist at Stanford University's Hoover Institution who testified for the state in the New York case.

So, this year the buzz and criticism is about trying to find ways to spend more money, and questions on "How do we fully fund?" And in reality, that's not the tough question. The difficult one is "what is full funding?"

"Shall" is better than "Intent" when legislating about education funding? Until we know what "fully funding" is, "Shall" is meaningless.

I'll take good intentions anyday over meaningless buzzwords. Until "fully funding" is definitively answered, I'll depend on my legislators to continue to use restraint when spending my tax dollars.

Comments

Bryce Healy said…
Fiscal Restraint? You even must have laughed when you typed that one.
Anonymous said…
How much does it cost to educate a child? The republicans have been using this excuse for the last ten years. The alliance study took that away when they were able to show it takes $820 more per kid then what we are spending now. You might not like the answer but there it is. The republicans (including you PP) need to stop using outdated talking points and come up with a real solution.
Anonymous said…
This is a topic where I have to beat my fellow repubs over the head. The "50% of the general fund" remark has been used since atleast 1995 when Janklow birthed the current k-12 funding hoax. In 1996 the general fund budget was about 600 million dollars, of that 600, about 300 was k-12 (the 50% referenced). Because,, 53% of the sales tax revenue was earmarked for k-12, hence the coincidence that K-12 was 50% of the budget. Now the general fund budget is way over 1 billion and the k-12 state aid is still around 300 million, which is nowhere near 50%, so, now they are adding the costs of the university and/or colleges to say 50% of the general fund is for "education".

It burns me to hear legislators use twisted stats like that to defend k-12 spending. K-12 spending has been neglected and now they have to "re-spin" and old fact to try and defend. Here is a fact for you, please verify it for me (anybody). The non-k/12 portion of the general fund budget of the State of South Dakota is one of the fastest growing budgets (state) in the entire USA based on per capita. I believe we are growing almost as fast as Arizona where the population has exploded, check it out. I would love to see a chart of spending increases in the various categories of expenditures like corrections and social services, you never hear of a 3% or the rate of inflation, whichever is less cap, for those folks. K-12 has done more with less than the entire rest of State government.
Between 1996 and 2002 The general fund buget grew from 600 to 900 million (approx). K-12 stayed at 300 million while the rest of State spending doubled (under Janklow)from 300 to 600 million (approx). 2002 to 2006 is about the same story. That works out to about 12% per year for non-k/12 spending. Prove me wrong, find the number of States with a stagnant population growth that have equaled the out of control spending in South Dakota, you will be hardpressed.

And after all that, I have to listen to all the pre-legislative, post-legislative commentary about how education is our #1 priority ,,choke, cough, gag, hack.

RICK KRIEBEL (former schoolboard member,Rapid city)

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