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Candidates For SD Governor Spar Over School Funding

September 1, 2014, 10:00 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Candidates For SD Governor Spar Over School Funding

Funding South Dakota schools will be one of the major topics for the candidates running for governor as the race ramps up this fall.

Incumbent Governor Dennis Daugaard made cuts to education when he first entered office four years ago but Daugaard has been defending that decision on the campaign trail.

“Nobody enjoyed the cuts that we had to impose on all areas of government. Education took the smallest cut. We'd like to reinvest more in education as we're able and we're certainly doing that," Daugaard said.

But Daugaard's Democratic challenger Susan Wismer — who has served on the legislature's Appropriations Committee which funds education — has been critical of those cuts so far during her campaign.

"We all love the free market. The free market works and you can finally tell that in education," Wismer said.

Wismer says South Dakota last place ranking in teacher pay has led to an exodus of educators from the state. She adds that South Dakota needs to make schools a priority.

"We're chasing our future right out of this state. We say we want to keep our brightest and best but those people are interested in more than just low taxes and great hunting," Wismer said.

Daugaard says the cuts were necessary to get the budget back on track. He points out that while the state is last in teacher pay the amount of money the state gives to local school districts per student is ranked 39th overall.

"After the year of the cuts, we've had three years of increases beyond the inflation level and this year was twice the inflation level," Daugaard said. "We're trying to invest in education as the first part of building the budget and if there are dollars left over after others are funded we're adding those to education as well," 

"We've got to find a better way to fund. We've got to pay our teachers and we've got to bring the parents and teachers together," Independent gubernatorial candidate Mike Myers said.

During the debate at the South Dakota State Fair last week, Myers said he would not only like to see an increase in teacher pay, but he would also like to see Common Core repealed.

"Health care and education are very similar. The corporate boys and the lobbyists have taken it over, and as an independent, I can bump them off," Myers said.

Both Wismer and Daugaard agree on the issue of Common Core and have both been supportive of the standards being implemented across the state in math and English.

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