KATIE ZERR: More needs to be done in education funding

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As HB1234 passes through the South Dakota Legislature, it has undergone many changes and evolved in into a bill that both the governor and some legislators feel is a good bill.

It is difficult to believe that they are not hearing what most educators are saying: that the bill is just not good for education.

The majority of educators that are speaking out have said that some components of this bill just are not conducive to the education system. They said they are against the bonus pay component of the bill. They want that funding to be given to the state’s school districts to use as they see fit.

According to what is being said, the popular sentiment is that more per-student funding is needed to ensure student achievement goals.

A story on KELO TV last week has created a whirlwind of discussion on many levels. It was a story about a Sanborn Central Social Studies teacher David Steele is leaving the profession because of the lack of pay. He is leaving teaching for the private sector because he hasn’t had a raise in four years and said he can’t keep up with his family’s bills.

Since the story ran, Steele received feedback from current and former administrators, teachers, parents and students in and out of state supporting him, according to KELO.

Education funding and teacher pay are two things Steele believes South Dakota lacks.

One of the comments that showed how people feel about how South Dakota funds education was, “Every citizen in this state should be ashamed for the way in which we have managed to de-value education over the years.”

A teacher that loved teaching so much that he made it his chosen profession and does not want to leave is forced out because South Dakota teachers have the lowest base pay of anywhere in the nation.

Since Mike Rounds was in office, it seems that instead of striving to bring good teachers back and to keep good teachers here, our state government has sent messages of disrespect and disregard to those teachers.

The national No Child Left Behind bill saddled our educators with unrealistic goals for all students under the veil of the threat of the government taking over schools.

More pressure, less funding and a salary stalemate tell our teachers to work harder but ignore the fact that they are not a priority in South Dakota.

Education funding in this state is in trouble. What the leadership in Pierre has deemed important and valuable does not bode well for all educators.

How we expect our best and brightest to choose education and to stay here when their field gets little respect from those in Pierre?

There have been Herculean efforts on the part of some legislators to save funding for schools and Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s plan has some good aspects, but over all, the hit education funding has taken recently has hurt school districts and teachers across the board.

House Bill 1234 sets up scholarships for college students who agree to teach in critically needed subjects. It gives $2,500 annual bonuses to math and science teachers, is not the answer to our education problems.

The most important issue is giving districts the means to educate and create good students, good citizens and those who are proud to be South Dakotans.

That is hard to do when budgets, programs and jobs have to be cut because of lack of adequate funding.

Sanborn Central Superintendent Linda Whitney told KELO that Steele would most likely make the top 20 percent of teachers that would get the proposed bonus, but it still doesn’t equal the pay Steele will make in the private sector.

There are some legislators who see what is happening and have introduced amendments to funnel more funding into education.

Hopefully their voices will be strong enough to help us keep a supply of good teachers here to guide our children through the most formative years of their education.

– Katie Zerr –

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