HURON — State government needs to reexamine its priorities and get back to the basics of adequately funding education and infrastructure projects while taking care of those people who can’t take care of themselves, the Democratic candidate for the District 22 state Senate seat said.
“What if there’s a kid sitting in Huron High School right now who could have the next Facebook idea?” said Chris Studer.
“To have the next big economic idea? And we don’t foster that kid, we don’t invest in that kid’s future and give him the best education that we can?” he said at the weekly Beadle County Democratic campaign lunch on Thursday.
“I think our school districts are doing a fantastic job with the funds that they have,” Studer said. “They are doing a good job with the tools that they have, but we can do better. It’s our responsibility to invest in our next generation.”
Studer is communications and marketing director for the South Dakota Farmers Union.
A native of Brainerd, Minn., he is a son of working-class parents. He decided to run for the Legislature to make a difference in the lives of his four young children and the people of the state.
“I think in South Dakota we haven’t been doing a good job for our kids lately,” he said. “Over the last two years we’ve done more to hurt education than in previous years.”
When $52 million was cut from K-12 education two years ago, it meant the loss of nearly 500 teachers. Studer questions why that was necessary when state government has $134 million in reserves and another $800 million in trust funds.
“You can’t tell me that we couldn’t have gotten through that tough spot without cutting,” he said. “There’s just no way.”
As he travels through the district talking with people, he’s also been meeting with teachers and school administrators.
“They all just say funding —it’s all about the funding,” he said.
Many districts have opted out of the property tax freeze and that is putting more of a burden on local taxpayers, he said. He thinks the state should pay a larger share.
The damage has been done, but it doesn’t have to continue, he said.
“We can turn things around,” Studer said. “It’s a difficult prospect given the political landscape in South Dakota, but I think we can do it.”
Voters should reject the referred law that if passed would implement HB 1234, the controversial measure from the last legislative session that would, among other things, develop merit bonuses for up to 20 percent of each school district’s full-time certified teachers.
The law provides that districts could opt out of merit bonus programs, with the money going to other participating districts.
Teachers are concerned that merit pay would end collaboration among them as they work together to come up with the best ideas to reach all of the kids in their classroom. Instead of cooperating, they will be competing.
It would also mean that 80 percent of moms and dads would have to settle for a “B” teacher for their children, Studer said.
“How many parents are going to want to send their kids to a teacher deemed not good enough?” he said.
If Referred Law 16 on the Nov. 6 ballot does pass, Studer said he would use his position in the state Senate to do all he can to repeal it.
The political newcomer said he has gotten a good response from people as he goes door to door in Beadle and Kingsbury counties.
“People are sick of the old way and they want a new way, and to them I’m the new way,” he said.
For the complete article see the 09-28-2012 issue.
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