HURON — South Dakota needs to place more of a priority on its education system because it is the key to the economic future of the state, the Democratic candidate for the District 22 state Senate seat said.
Political newcomer Chris Studer of Huron said he is running for the Legislature to try to make a difference.
“I want to be a leader and I want to step out and do things that will help lead this state in the right direction,” he said at the Beadle County Democratic Forum on Thursday.
Studer, 32, a married father of four young children, said too many people his age and younger aren’t as interested in getting involved in the political process.
Born in Wisconsin and raised in Minnesota, Studer said he found opportunity in this state when he went to South Dakota State University and, after graduating, became a television reporter and anchor. He joined the South Dakota Farmers Union as communications and marketing director in 2008.
“I want my kids to grow up in a state that cares about education, that cares about quality of life, that cares about each other,” he said. “I think we need to do better; we can do better.”
Studer said he comes from a blue collar, working-class family that lived paycheck to paycheck. His parents encouraged him and his older brother to get a college education.
While a college degree isn’t necessary to achieve success in life, it helps, he said.
U.S. Census Bureau figures show that South Dakota trails the surrounding states of North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska in the percentage of adults between 25 and 34 years of age with a degree. South Dakota is also lowest in the percentage of all adults 25 and older with college degrees when compared with those states and the national average.
In the 2011 legislative session, school districts saw funding reductions of 8 percent, although with an infusion of one-time money it was actually 6.6 percent, he said.
The Associated School Boards of South Dakota, however, said the state has lost nearly 500 jobs in K-12 public education.
“Our school districts were hurt, our kids were hurt, our administrators were hurt and our future was hurt,” Studer said.
Public universities also took huge hits, with SDSU losing much of its Extension service. County offices were closed or consolidated.
“The reason that we are where we are in agriculture today is because of research and education and it was slashed,” he said.
Legislators also last year voted to take money out of the general fund that could have gone to education and directed it to multi-million-dollar corporations as kickbacks, Studer said.
The controversial HB 1234 that opponents are trying to refer to a public vote in November could pit teachers against each other as they seek to receive bonuses and merit pay. Teachers aren’t in the profession because of the money but because they love teaching and kids, but Studer and other opponents of the bill worry they may no longer collaborate in their schools.
Economic development is, of course, a priority in South Dakota, but “the way we get there is up for debate,” he said.
It’s important to have good-paying jobs and benefits, as well as quality-of-life initiatives like Huron’s Central Park project, Studer said. With their education, young professionals could elect to go anywhere in the country, so it’s vital that they get connected with the South Dakota communities they enjoy living in, he said. For the complete article see the 04-06-2012 issue.
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