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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Munsterman Promises Repeal of Forced School Consolidation

I know I'm playing right into Scott Munsterman's hands, trumpeting an announcement e-mailed to the South Dakota blogosphere by his gubernatorial campaign manager Pat Powers and giving the underdog (?) campaign free press. I'm also making hay out of election news a full year (hey! exactly 52 weeks from this Tuesday) before anyone votes.

But Mayor Munsterman just hit on an issue where he can distinguish himself from at least two of his challengers, Lt. Gov. Dennis Daugaard and State Sen. David Knudson: school consolidation. Throwing a genuine Republican chip on the table, Munsterman promises to leave school consolidation in the hands of local districts:

“Nothing affects the viability, and survivability of a town more than the consolidation of their school. It means one town is chosen to live, and one or more towns are destined to a slow demise through the continued attrition of business and residents. This is not a small decision, and is best left up to the residents of the town – not state government. I believe South Dakota is only as strong as it’s smallest community, and it is time that we focus on building our state from the bottom up. As your next Governor, repealing forced consolidation will be one of my first priorities” [Scott Munsterman, press release, 2009.06.01].

Not bad. Daugaard has served the Rounds administration that pushed and signed and presided over the Senate that passed the current law forcing schools with enrollment under 100 to close. Knudson has argued that small schools deliver inferior education. In the 2007 Legislative session, Knudson co-sponsored legislation that, in its original form, would have consolidated all school districts with enrollment under 200 (goodbye Montrose, Rutland, Oldham-Ramona, Woonsocket...).

No word from Ken Knuppe where he stands on school consolidation yet. But Munsterman does a sharp two-in-one here, staking out a local-control position that makes him sound more Republican than the other guys (good primary move) and stakes out the small-town vote.

Update 09:00 CDT: But it occurs to me: this may be an empty, feel-good promise, too late to do any good for Conde and other schools that the state has forced to close. Munsterman can say he'll "repeal" state-mandated consolidation, but does that mean he'll find money to reopen the Conde school district? Before any small-town voters jump on the Munsterman bandwagon, they should ask for some concrete details on how this promise would change the status quo the next governor will inherit in 2011.

Munsterman campaign errata:
  • Munsterman's Web-savvy campaign staff have shut off the autoplay feature on the front-page video. Thank you. Update 2009.06.14: Oops! It's back on. Grrr!
  • Lest anyone think I'm signing on to the Munsterman campaign, understand my unease about a campaign that would hire a right-wing nut like former SDSU Republican Chair Brandon Lindstrom. Young Mr. Lindstrom came to my attention via Mr. Powers's RSS feed, which includes links to Mr. Lindstrom's blog, Conservative Candor. Ugh: the blog is little more than an extension of mindless right-wing spam ("From an email I received..."). Lindstrom also apparently suffers from that common right-wing inferiority complex that mistakes macho bull for political philosophy. Munsterman evidently had to hire Powers when he discovered Lindstrom hasn't matured enough to have any original ideas.

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