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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Rounds Vetoes Small School Exception, Deems Counties "Arbitrary"

Sibby calls it correctly: Governor Rounds's veto yesterday of HB 1171 proves he's no fan of local control in government. HB 1171 would have exempted school districts like Herreid from the minimum enrollment requirement if they are the last district in the county. Says Governor Rounds:

I believe artificial lines on a map should not be the basis for an exemption from the reorganization requirement. Instead, I believe physical factors, such as distance from another secondary school, land area of the school district, and other geographic circumstances need to be the basis by which to consider an exemption to SDCL 13-6-97. Exemptions to SDCL 13-6-97 should be considered only when there are significant factors which limit the ability of a school district to reorganize with another school district. Again, those factors should be the basis for law, not arbitrary boundaries which are over 100 years old [Governor M. Michael Rounds, veto message to South Dakota Legislature, 2009.03.02].

The Governor concludes by saying "it is a harmful precedent to exempt a school district from the provisions of SDCL 13-6-97 based solely upon an arbitrary factor such as a county boundary."

Did you catch that? County boundaries are arbitrary, artificial, even outdated. I guess county governments shouldn't expect much support from Pierre. It's too bad House State Affairs spiked Representative Dreyer's proposal to consolidate South Dakota's counties: I would love to have gotten Governor Rounds's official opinion on that one.


  1. You're constructing a straw-man here, Cory.

    Lines on a map (including a political boundaries) ARE arbitrary. They are slightly less so when they follow natural features like bodies of water (and then, do you use the Thalweg principle for a river? How far off-shore does a coastal boundary extend?), but even a mountain-range has to have an arbitrary point drawn in it.

    County boundaries are arbitrary and artificial (I'd go so far as to assert that anything artificial is arbitrary, but I'd like to sleep on that one, first). As to whether or not they're outdated, that would depend on how they were defined -- anything to do with population at a given point of time? Outdated within a few weeks, most likely. 100 years? ha-hah-hah.

    You're transforming a statement of fact (lines on a map are arbitrary) into a statement of intent.

    Maybe it is indeed Gov. Rounds' intent to disenfranchise local governments. But recognizing their arbitrary boundaries has nothing to do with it.

    Oh, if only you had had the opportunity of being on a debate team in High School....

  2. The governor is right. Wyoming has a mere 23 counties to deliver state services. Either SD loves government three times more or is three times less efficient delivering government services.

    Our county lines were created at about the time of statehood. A premise was that one could ride the horse or buggy to the county seat and return to the farm in one day. This out-dated service delivery design is still with us and we pay for it when each administrative echelon siphons off a percent of funds instead of using those funds to directly deliver services.

    We should consolidate counties: three or four into one to reduce overhead costs and more efficiently deliver services. No one misses Armstrong, Washington, or Washabaugh counties - and no one would miss two-thirds of our counties if the went away next week.

    While we are at county consolidation - we should also consolidate school districts: about six or eight into one.

  3. And the state should make the governor "Dictator in Chief"!

    No one man has all the answers. Local control keeps our voice from being lost in the confusion.

    Eliminate nothing.

  4. [OMichael: "If I only had a brain...." I'm probably just suffering vicariously from the absence of policy and Lincoln-Douglas debate at my alma mater....]

    I will agree that boundaries are arbitrary in origin. However, the Governor's resort to this fact reflects convenience, not commitment to principle. Suggest that our state boundaries are arbitrary and that more policies ought to be determined Washington's assessment of our needs, and the Governor would likely disagree.

    But maybe this statement reflects some political courage. I would like to hear a governor look county commissioners in the eye more often and tell them their jurisdictions are artificial constructs hardly worthy of Pierre's consideration. (Is that not the content of his statement? And does that statement not at least suggest implications for other policy considerations?)

    And actually, I could give that county consolidation idea some consideration. Unfortunately, Rep. Brian Gosch was the only member of House State Affairs who agreed that conversation was worth having (see HJR 1002).

  5. It is all a matter of viewpoint isn't it? The governor has provided a good case, some arbitrary lines on the map provide his own authority. The state borders are as arbitrary and perhaps as outdated as the county boundaries? By the logic the governor has laid down we probably don't need him either do we? We don't need no stink' in lines! We have the federal government? Oh that is just more lines... Ahh.. We can give the authority for running our schools to the New World Order!! This is the governor's logic, not mine.

    I have to say I find fault with the notion 'efficiency' suggested by state control of education and rolling smaller schools up into education factories. That just disenfranchises the people (students, parents, communities) that the institutions of education have been created to service.

    Consolidation might save money, but is it efficiency if the schools do not produce the results we want them to when they are lost from local control? Why should we trust education professionals that run our schools? Because they have taken the same management courses that has produced the MBAs that are running Wall Street? They get more money if they are a principal at a bigger school?

    With the onset of technology in education if we look we can see charter schools and home schooling are flourishing. The children from these settings do as well as those who are in conventional high school settings. Why? Because the traditional needs and advantages of specialization for the teachers of subject matter are no longer as critical in an age of computerization of curricular content. It is a time when education is being reborn as a cottage industry and 'digital native' children learn in ways that confound traditional educators.

    What is the catch? What is wrong with education as an assembly line? The kids only learn if they want to. That is the roll of education today, inspiring, helping youth to see the value of learning. I don't think that is something the schools can do by themselves.

    This is not a time for larger schools stamping out one size fits all education. This is a time for the excellence in education that can be ours by the involvement of parents and community which is lost when we lose local control.

  6. In some states there is an intermediate path. Schools combine some services/functions for economy (purchasing,administration) some teachers and support staff can travel instead of students.


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