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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Budget Disappointment: Cutting Education at Worst Time

The state budget went out with a whimper instead of a bang. Stimulus money rendered most of the exciting debates moot, as once again, Washington's largesse spared South Dakotans from making hard choices.

Even with Washington's help, the budget still made some significant cuts. State employees get no raise (more beans and wienies for Madville Times Jr.). More bothersome, though, is the Legislature's persistence in cutting education. They still found the normal 3% increase for K-12, but they cut the Board of Regents budget by $1.2 million. My neighbor and legislator Rep. Gerry Lange (D-8/Madison) tells me that means a $76K cut here at DSU. (Proportionally, that looks to me like we're making out locally like bandits!)

The Dems mustered their protest votes against the budget in part because of these education cuts. They have a point: with unemployment rising, more workers need retraining. More students will seek more education to equip themselves for a wider range of jobs than they can qualify for now. Our universities and tech schools could easily see enrollment increases in the coming couple semesters. Why hamstring some of our best engines of economic growth just when we need them most?


  1. I would just like to echo what CAH said about increased enrollments @ the college level. In particular, an unusually large number of students are choosing to stay on for graduate work which I attribute mostly to the poor job market even for technically skilled individuals.

    Eliminating the state raises this year is also simply comical. We are so far behind other states in terms of compensation that the only way to really recruit is to suck up those who are not economically mobile and able to move or those who are desperate for literally any job.

    We use to at least be able to see the taillights of the other states, but now they are simply pulling away.

  2. Higher Ed has seen unbridled growth in their budgets and building projects the past few years while K-12 suffered and cut costs at the expense of our young students for several years. It makes sense to hold off any higher ed increases or state employee raises this year. Compare the growth of state government hiring over the past six years to the growth of K-12 hiring. K-12 is down while state hiring is way up.

  3. Anon 12:24:

    Decreased hiring at the K-12 level is because of decreased statewide enrollments. We don't need more teachers for fewer students:


    Increased hiring at the college level is due to increased enrollment:


    We need fewer K-12 teachers because we have fewer students. We need more college professors because we have more students. We don't hire teachers because we haven't hired some of a particular type in a while. We hire based on need.

    If anything we should be cutting K-12 teachers and consolidating districts.

  4. I watched as Governor Rounds proposed his budget(s) and the legislature deliberated where the cuts should occur. The lobbyists for the special interests, (Birth to 3, State Fair, School for the Deaf, etc.) made their cases for continued funding, and then the part of the stimulus package for SD became a reality. Not once did I hear anyone say, "Hey, what about the state employees? Don't they deserve fair compensation?" I'm sure that next year will bring some new sense of urgency to the State, in one way or another. I can hardly wait to see how SD's State employees fare at that time.


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