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Educators Looking For Change In Conversation

February 24, 2012, 7:32 AM by Austin Hoffman

Educators Looking For Change In Conversation
PIERRE, SD -  
Education might be the topic of discussion in Pierre this year but many would like to see those talks take a different direction.

There's one general consensus between those on both sides of the current education debate in Pierre and that's the need to raise student achievement. But some say what's being left out is baseline education funding. Some educators would like to see it rise to the top of discussion.

"A lot of focus has been on Governor Daugaard's bill, House Bill 1234 merit pay plan and some other components in that. But what's been lost in all of that is discussion on our base funding.  And that's where the discussion need to be held," Baltic Superintendent Bob Sittig said.

Sittig isn't surprised that the bill has taken over the conversation with many of its controversial aspects. But he says with education funding frozen last school year and a 6.6 percent cut proposed this year, something must be done.

"There’s no way we can continue operating our schools on funding that's less than five years ago. I often say we can’t fund the schools of 2012-13 on funding from 2007-08 which is what they’re going to ask us to do if we don't get more money in the formula," Sittig said.

House Bill 1234 is focused on student achievement and Sittig says that's a great goal to have. But he says without more money it may not be achievable.

"But if our funding that was cut isn’t restored, there are going to be negative affects on student achievement that the governor’s plan will not fix. And that is the message I think that needs to go out," Sittig said.

Sittig is glad that lawmakers are having the discussion and trying to get higher quality teachers into the classroom. However, with South Dakota ranking 50th in average teacher pay, he believes a re-directed focus could reach that same goal.

"You know, how much longer are we going to be able to get good people to go into education when they’re not getting paid a competitive wage and they’re feeling under appreciated for the importance of the work that they do?" Sittig asked.

The last day of this year's session is Friday, March 2. So, baseline education funding is a discussion that will have to be hashed out before then.

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