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Friday, October 24, 2008

Russell Olson Votes for Small Schools... to Close!

RussellOlson.com offers a cheerful little ad from the GOP candidate for the District 8 State Senate seat. (It was labeled "movie," but it's only audio. Darn!) Let's listen:

Note the continued shout-outs to the jockocracy of our district (funny—I don't recall football coming up much in the actual bills our legislators have to consider).

Alas, Olson's words don't align with his actions. The Republican candidate voted to force several small schools in South Dakota to close. 2007's Senate Bill 157 required schools with less than 100 students enrolled to reorganize—i.e. consolidate or shut down. Olson voted for it. Olson did vote against HB 1082, which would have closed schools with enrollments under 130. I guess local control is valuable unless you come from a school district to affect your party's chances of winning the next election.

It's nice to talk about how much we love small schools. But Russell Olson has voted to close small schools. Will he do it again? Folks in school districts like Oldham-Ramona (2007 enrollment 104), Rutland (114), and Woonsocket (172) might want to consider that question before November 4.


  1. The cost per taxpayer and cost per student in these smallest schools is not efficient. Rutland has opted out several times and the ag producers are carrying the majority of the financial burden. Pride only carries us so far, then we have to face reality. Our smallest communities have died and the only thread of life remains in our tiny schools. Is that worth keeping the schools open, and are students getting the fullest educational opportunities? Folks in Rutland, Ramona and other towns need to visit larger schools and see what their kids are missing. Russell Olson isn't the problem. This is just part of the evolution of rural South Dakota towns.

  2. I can see small schools in sparse areas need to stay open. But Rutland? We live farther away from Madison than probably anyone in the Rutland district, and yet we are in the Madison school district. I never could see the sense in this. If the schools want to stay open, like Rutland, and can do it financial wise themselves, fine, but don't expect extra money from the state to do so.

  3. Anon 9:21 is right. I think smaller schools get extra money called the small school factor to help them stay open. Some of the sparse districts also get subsidy which makes more sense than a district that is only 10 miles from Madison, Colman, Ramona, Volga and Chester. No problem if the patrons want to keep it open, but we shouldn't have to subsidize their local pride.

  4. Charlie Johnson10/24/2008 10:08 AM

    There is no subsidy in keeping small schools other than the small school factor. When local school districts decide to stay open, they do so by opting out with local local tax dollars not state funds. The real "rub" is when legislation by the state allows no local option. Patrons in the Conde school district were wanting to maintain their school and were willing to use 100% local money. Yet by state law they were denied that choice.

    Small schools, large schools, all sizes, bring strengths and weakness to our educational opportunities.

    When consolidation does become apparent, there is no reason why a school district can not maintain both a "A" and "B" size high school in their district. It is more important that school districts share staff, teachers, and resources than require all students to be transported to a bigger facilitiy. Patrons in a school district should have an option whether their hgih school student will do better in small school environemnt or in a larger facility.

  5. http://www.earlycolleges.org/Downloads/reslib79.pdf


    And if you knew anything, you would know that South Dakota is actually LOSING money because of forced consolidation--not saving money.

  6. I'm anon 9:21, and I agree with Charlie too. I could see no reason why Conde couldn't stay open when they were begging to do so and pay for it all themselves and they obviously believed they were providing a quality education.

    I just disagree with spending extra state money through the small school factor. Actually, the whole formula stinks and should be scrapped.

  7. Here we go again- assuming that somehow families who choose to send their children to small schools such as Rutland do not know what they are doing, realize what they are missing, etc.
    The families that have open enrolled their children to Rutland from Madison and other larger school districts know full well what they are missing. They choose to miss it and are greatful for the opportunity to go somewhere else (aside from enrolling in a private school).
    It is patronizing to dismiss this reality completely. More public schools within a small geographic area offers school choice to families with school age children. What's so wrong with this?
    District families who keep their children in Rutland and others who open enroll their children in from larger districts know full well what they are doing and are fully capable of making choices concerning the educational needs of their children.

    Let people continue to vote with their feet, we are building a future on this concept.


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