Kudos to the AG for investigating what Schools have been doing with taxpayer money

Yesterday, it came out in the media that the Attorney General Larry Long asked Legislative Audit to look into the fact that taxpayer money was being used to sue the state..... to get more taxpayer money.

Good for him. I think it's past time that this portion of the campaign be reviewed in depth.

Here's what the article in the Argus Leader had to say about it:
Long says schools lack legal standing to challenge the constitutionality of state laws and are barred from paying any legal fees except their own. He released on Thursday copies of a letter to Auditor General Martin Guindon that requested the audit.

"The attorney general's office believes that any expenditure of public tax dollars by a South Dakota school district to challenge the constitutionality of a statute is illegal," Long wrote. He cited a 1999 Supreme Court decision involving the Edgemont School District to support his contention."Therefore, this office believes that it is improper and illegal for school districts to finance this lawsuit," Long said.
Read it all here.

In the past I've said it's bad for taxpayers to be paying to certain things, and sorry, I'm still not budging. If schools (or other public entities) are spending taxpayer money to say that they need more taxpayer money - whether it's through the ballot or judicial process - it's wrong.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Hot damn!!!

This means Larry Llllooooonnnggg will finally starting moving his butt about going after Roger Hunt's illegal financing activities. Right?

Or is this just the petty and vindictive attorney general acting on the wishes of the petty and vindictive governor?

Meanwhile, nobody ponders why our public schools took this unusual step of suing the deadbeat jerks in Pierre.
Anonymous said…
That can't be right, because Long is a republican. Being petty and vindictive would make him a democrat.
Anonymous said…
Finally Long is getting some cajounes.

The schools have said publically that they are financially supporting the lawsuit. Taxpayer money is being used to sue the taxpayer for more more.

PP - you hit the nail on the head.
Anonymous said…
The property taxpayers are financing this lawsuit because they are sick of being overtaxed on their property taxes, you idiot!

It's probably the smartest investment of property taxes in the last two years.
edumicated idjit said…
Great idea. Lets ignore the real issue, a lack of adequate resources for SD schools to educate SD students for a 21st Century world. Instead lets paw at the periphery of the issue and argue that a group of school districts cannot send funds to a parent organization which then chooses to support an adequacy case before the court.
It seems to me that if our state was serious about funding education it would work with school districts to find a way to fund education adequately as North Dakota, Iowa, Kansas and Wyoming have done. Show some leadership on this issue and maybe state government can be seen to be upholding the state constitution instead of hiding behind the bean counters and not fulfilling their sworn duty. OBTW this is not taxpayers suing taxpayers. It is students and parents seeking their constitutional right through the court system. A right that is guaranteed through citizenship, not through any other means. Being 51st in teacher salaries means we don't, as a society, value what teachers do for our children. If the teachers aren't important then why are we staking so much on our future generations? Maybe we should be happy with that and put more money into prisons and rehab facilities. I guess our future motto, " The Land of Finite Opportunity" will fit us like a glove.....
Would the last one left that's able to please turn off the lamp of education!
Lyle said…
this lawsuit is nothing more than a shakedown of taxpayers by whiny teachers who are mostly clowns who can't get better jobs....government workers suing the government to give them more money is outrageous
Anonymous said…
PP,

The lawsuit is about parents and kids wanting a good education. How much longer are you and the rest of the Republican Party going to keep your heads stuck in the sand. North Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wyoming are stealing our teachers. I heard Belle Fourche is losing 11 teachers to Wyoming next year. It is highly unlikely that they will fill all of those position by next fall.

I am so sick of the crap I hear about how teachers only work nine months a year and have the summers off.

That is complete crap. During the school year teachers spend an enormous time outside of the classroom preparing for what they do everyday to prepare our kids for the future and grading the work of your children. Who do you think corrects their papers? Santa Clause?

I am not a teacher but my sister-in-law is. She works her ass off and spends many weeks away from her family in the summer to continue her educations so she can consider to be highly qualified. Isn't that what you bushies want? She makes an enormous amount of sacrafices so she can teach because she believes her job is important.

It offends me to no end when people tell me that she doesn't deserve better pay because she isn't working.

Tell that to my niece and nephew who have just accepted the fact that they have to share their mother with the rest of her students. She ends up missing many of their activities because she is trying to keep her head above water.

Please tell me why you all don't value what she does? Please explain to me why she doesn't deserve to be compensated for her time?

What is more important to you, Money or kids? After reading these posts, apparently its money. No wonder all the young people are leaving SD.
Douglas said…
Wonder who is paying Long's salary and the expenses of his countersuit. I suppose taxpayers are getting stuck with that too.

Well, really, I wasn't wondering about that. I do have some questions about the propriety of school boards making a decision to sue without some kind of vote; but school boards make decisions to hire lawyers to defend schools when they are sued by ACLU or students, parents, etc. And, they probably pay a lawyer on retainer as well.

Why is paying an attorney to get more money for schools any different than paying an attorney to keep a school from paying out more money?
Anonymous said…
10:14,
I'm sure your sister-in-law is a wonderful teacher, but most professions carry with them the same expectations that you make reference to. I am in the healthcare field, and I can't tell you how many of my kids' activities I have had to miss due to work. I have many working friends, all different professions, who miss activities. It's called "being employed". By the way, none of us makes anymore money than teachers do. I swear. Colleges should make their education majors sign a pledge stating that they know what kind of a wage they will earn as a teacher and that they won't b---- about their earning potential for the rest of their lives. There are countless professions that make less money than teachers, but we don't hear other groups complaining incessantly like teacher groups do.
Anonymous said…
anon 10:14

I don't question anything you said, however, I don't know of many professions where those kind of sacrifices don't occur. That's the kind of thing it takes to get ahead, and those of us who live and work in SD all do them for less pay than we can make in neighboring states.

The difference is, most of us make less than teachers, and we know that our paycheck is determined by who we work for, and what our job is. We knew going in what the job paid, as did teachers, and had to make the decision to take the job, find a different career, or move somewhere else where we could make more doing the same thing.

Everyone makes those decisions, and about three quarter million of us have chosen to live in SD for one reason or another.

Just because teachers are funded by taxpayers shouldn't give them any more right to bitch about their earnings than the rest of us. In fact, it should give them even less right to complain, because their wages are paid by the 75% of the residents of SD who make less money than they do.

The other thing that confuses me, is understanding why paying teachers more will give us a better end product -- smarter kids.

Are you saying that teachers would do a better job if they were paid more? Does that mean they'd try harder, or have more time to do the "extra" things like grade papers? More money = better education doesn't seem to work in many states where the teachers make more, but the kids aren't as smart.

Bottom line, the most important thing in a child's learning process, and overall makeup, is having parents who give a damn. If that isn't present, teachers who make $100k a year wouldn't make much difference.
Anonymous said…
Funny how you think that teachers are really only in the profession because they are unable to get better jobs. These are the people who made you who you are, your children and someday your grandchildren.

Granted I think that the lawsuit is bogus and teachers really are not paid that poorly; do not say that teachers are 'settling' for the profession. I do not want a person that 'settled' for surgery to take out my appendix. I do not want a person that 'settled' for teaching English to teach my children to read. Both should be equally as important to MY child and MY community.

And out of respect, you should remember that there are teachers out there that CHOSE to be teachers. And those are the teachers that will educate your children.
Anonymous said…
"And teachers don't get paid more than I do."

What a bunch of crap. Pull out the labor statistics. Our state government employees rank 42nd in the nation. Healthcare workers right around the same.

In fact, for any profession where you need a college degree, the stats say we're anywhere from 40th to 45th in the nation.

Yet, for our teachers, we only pay them 51st.

It's a shame some of our legislators look at our teachers as whiners. They have families, too. And, when the legislature is the one that controls your salary, and the legislature is the one that tells you that you aren't worth anything, then the teachers are going to be upset at the legislature.
Tom said…
Wow. I'm disappointed in you, PP. Why is it that Republicans are so clueless when it comes to funding education? They give schools the least ammount of money they can and are shocked when schools say it isn't adequate.

And I heard that North Dakota went through a simiar situation. They had a bunch of schools sueing the state because it was underfunding education. And you know what happened? ND decided to increase funding and they dropped the lawsuit.

Shocking, I know!

And I find it funny that Republicans don't seem to mind spending billions upon billions on an immoral, unjust war, yet they can't seem to find a few hundred million to help out education.
Anonymous said…
I'm curious, why no audits of cities and counties that spent taxpayer money to defend gambling and oppose amendment D when those were on the ballot ???, WINK, WINK, way to go Larry Long, selctive amnesia.
nonnie said…
If you take into consideration other factors such as cost of living etc, our teachers are not 51st in the nation. And you do have to take all those facts into the equation. Do you think it costs the same to rent or own a home in NY as SD for instance?

I don't think the state is funding education as it should. I also think that schools will spend every cent they can and holler for more. There has to be a compromise in there somewhere without simply relying on opt outs which get their money from the same property taxpayers over and over. Local control is a mantra for soak it to the same property taxpayers. There needs to be a more fair way of "local control."

Some suggestions:
To start with I would say dump the ridiculous formula. Dole out the money simply on a per student basis, big or little schools makes no difference. They get state money based on student enrollment, period.

Second, I would consolidate administrative duties among districts.

Third, I would make extracurriculars at least partially pay if you participate. A free public education was never meant to mean free bus trips across the state to play sports.

Get the schools back to educating, and the process of development of a well-rounded individual out of the schools and back into the community.

Maybe then it wouldn't take so many dollars to run the school system and there would be more money available for raises for teachers.
nonnie said…
Another fact most don't know.

I'm going to use small figures to illustrate this.

Let's say the state promises $1,000 in state aid to education for 2007. Some of that money (say $100) isn't used for whatever reason. This then goes back into the state's general fund. So in reality the state only spent $900 in state aid to education in 2007.

Then the same thing happens the next year. So for the two years the state has promised $2,000, and everyone thinks they actually spent that much, when in reality they only spent $1,800.

I have asked about this and gotten spin from the people I talked to. But there is no way around this fact. The state claims they are paying X amount, but they never do actually.
nonnie said…
I sent this above post in too quickly. Meant to add this. Why doesn't the state take all the unspent funds and return them to the schools on a simple per student basis at the end of the fiscal year. Yes, the amount would vary from year to year, but so what. Each district could use the funds as they saw fit. Give it to the teachers as a bonus. Or buy a new bus. Or whatever. The state has already allocated those dollars for education, and they should remain as education dollars.
greatplains said…
Lyle said: "...whiny teachers who are mostly clowns who can't get better jobs..."

Although I disagree completely with you about the quality of the teachers in South Dakota, let's say you're right, and they're all a bunch of idiots. Um, what do you expect when the salaries are low enough to drive the cream of the crop AWAY from teaching? Ever heard of "you get what you pay for"?
Anonymous said…
Okay, I hate to start a fight or futher a fight but, here i go.
Remember the tax base we have in SD it is not the same as Iowa, Minn. etc. I agree wtih a few other posters statements such as for schools or the 'teachers union" there will never be ebough money! That is 100% true. Sd can not afford to keep starting new programs or expanding programs. There are so many avenues that are or could open up with less regulations that can help people. We have so many small schools under 300 and it takes almost as much to keep them going. Most of the cost is overhead, teacher pay and their benefits. We have second gyms built because of Title 4 is it, (sorrry, I can remember which number) I agree and have thougth for years we need to join supers to over look the schools and this can work if the schools have strong schools boards and act like schools board members!
I do agree something needs to be done as the one time money is hard to work with. But people also need to remember that schools run on the former school finances. In other words they will recieve money for the 07-08 year bfased on 06-07 school year.
SOme smaller towns rely to heavely on the "schools" to keep their towns alive. I feel this is wrong and can very well cause more harm than good but a town needs a strong school. There ha to be a balance and the city councils need to work on development in other areas.
I will stop typing now.
Anonymous said…
please forgive my blunders above in typing i am watching a movie as i type.
Anonymous said…
SD is only "51st" in the nation for teacher salaries when you factor in ALL the districts in the state. Some of those teachers have classes of less than 10 students and they make a smaller wage. Wages are set by districts--locally--to meet local needs. Teachers know this. Try looking at what a Sioux Falls district teacher makes! It compares very well with the reat of the nation.
Anonymous said…
Give yourself a raise, stop paying union dues.
Anonymous said…
lawsuit or no lawsuit, taxpayer funded or not, k-12 education is being treated less than fair.

if the rate of inflation is good enough for k-12, why isnt it good enough for our prisoners ? colleges ?

what was "per prisoner" spending in 1996 ? what is it today ? what was "per student" spending at our universities in 1996 compared to today ?

If 3% or the rate of inflation is plenty, or more than enough revenue for our schools, why not for all ?

Isnt it great we are protecting taxpayers from those terrible schools and school boards that waste money ?

I cant wait till a respected media person like a wooster or mercer does a spending comparison of all these agencies and silences the k-12 critics forever !!!!
Anonymous said…
School funding is pretty simple to solve. Convince local taxpayers that the local schools need more investment. It's called an opt-out. Otherwise, show the state-level tax that the public will accept increasing, or the state-level reduction in funding that the public will accept. If a local school can't raise more money locally, why should the rest of South Dakota pay for it?
nonnie said…
Anon 7:30. It's all well and good to say raise more money locally. Good sound bite. Trouble is that it is unfair. A few people end up footing most of the bill for this "local control." Until a more fair way of raising money locally is available, opting out is NOT the answer. A property owner (businessman owner and farmer/rancher who have to own property as part of their doing business) foots most of the bill. People who simply own a house pay very little in comparison. How much do you spend to locally support your school district, anon 7:30?
Anonymous said…
As a nameless legislator, I want to comment an a few posts that are disturbing. First of all, I don't know of one single legislator that calls teachers a bunch of "whiners". We all understand the value of teachers and what they contribute. I believe that salary decisions are best left at the local level and the legislature doesn't dicatate what salaries should be paid to teachers. Some states do in fact do this and I believe there will be movement on this in SD given the fact that SD has remained on the bottom of the pay scale. I won't go into the cost of living in SD but I would like to comment on one important statistic. SD ranks 35th in per pupil expenditure that includes salaries yet we are 51st in salaries alone. Many states that pay their teachers much more are near the bottom in per pupil costs. That tells me that money is being spent elsewhere. We do have too many schools in this state and unfortunately the legislature doesn't have the balls to make the hard decisions.
Nonnie, you are referring to declining enrollment dollars which is a nonissue now. Back when we were guessing what the next years enrollment would be, we would always guess a little high to make sure we had appropriated the correct funds. We have a better system now that is more accurate so there is very little left over. Don't look at what was promised in the aggregrate but as what was promised in the per student allocation.
The real problem in education is declining enrollment in many schools. The state can raise the per student allocation but if a school loses students, that increase may actually be a loss. We all know that you can't lay off staff because you lost 10 kids in the whole school so you are stuck with the same amount of expenses yet receiving less income. The legislature understands that and the only AFFORDABLE solution is consolidation. I don't know what is worse: having an unaffordable solution or an unrealistic political solution. I think perhaps those two will have to merge under the guise of compromise.
One other important point on this lwasuit that the media hasnt' mentioned: the courts can't tell the legislature how much to increase funding if the funding is deemed inadequate. Scott Abdallah claims this move by Larry Long shows the state has a week case but he knows he is skating on thin ice and the lawsuit will tank very soon unless private funding shows up. The schools put forward specific money for the sole purpose of funding a lawsuit. The school boards that voted in favor of joining the suit committed funds for this lawsuit. It's quite obvious this is in violation of the Supreme Court ruling.
Anonymous said…
The hard fact is - There's only two ways to get more money to education.

1- close down a bunch of small schools, or 2- create a new tax or raise an existing one significantly.

Right now, there's not enough votes in the legislature to do either one.
Anonymous said…
PP-

How come I always seem to have to type in the dumb letters below here two times before I can post.

It happens almost every time, and I know I typed in the right letters.

Does anyone else have this problem?
Anonymous said…
Of course.... That one went through the first time!! Just can't win, I guess.
Anonymous said…
For the anon legislator--> do you want to try to excite your 6 year old to back to school when they have an hour ride on a school bus? That is insane.

Hopefully Sioux Falls and Rapid do not get enough votes in redistricting in a few years to force all of us consolidate.

And also, does a larger school educate students better? That is where the kids started getting left behind.
Anonymous said…
None of this should be a surprise. Larry Wrong has officially joined his pal Marion in the War on Public Schools.
Anonymous said…
10:57

If Sioux Falls were a state, it would rank 48th in the nation in teacher salaries.

Does that compare "very favorably"?

Please stop lying and spreading falsehoods.
Anonymous said…
You do understand that there are some teachers who DON"T want to belong to the Teachers Union. I bet some of you are just gasping for air and the lat breath of your life. They feel forced and shut out.
nonnie said…
9:21 anon. I have the same problem and usually have to type the word verification twice to get it to go in.
nonnie said…
But of course didn't this time either!!!
Anonymous said…
No, paying teachers more will not make them better teachers. That argument is completely absurd. The problem lies in finding and retaining quality staff, not in paying sub-par teachers more. As long as our best and brightest teachers are able to make a short move across the border and make considerably more money than they are here, it is going to be increasingly difficult to hire and retain the quality educators our children deserve.

By continuing to minimally fund education in this state, we are sending our children a very clear message: You're not worth any better. And we wonder why so many of them leave after they graduate.
Douglas said…
School buses aren't cheap and gasoline or diesel is unlikely to be cheap in the future. I don't quite see were all the benefits for consolidation are supposed to come from.

Consolidating administrators may make sense however. Not every small school needs a superintendent and a couple principals and a business manager and two or threse minimum pay office secretaries to actually do the work.

Ground source heat pumps, better use of solar heat and light, insulation, better design, etc, etc. can make a difference especially if fuel prices keep going up.

Continued heavy reliance on property tax is the primary problem. South Dakota needs nearly complete tax reform. Link all the taxes in a ratio so that no single tax can be increased at the expense of any particular group or set of taxpayers. City sales taxes are also a problem because they suck money out of people with no control or voice in the spending and cities then build sports and entertainment centers that suck money out of the city and state rather than bringing money in from elsewhere.

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