Monday, September 29, 2008

West River Dems Step Up For Kids, while Republicans talk

Cross-posted from Badlands Blue

The Rapid City Weekly News has an article this week worth checking out (Legislative candidates discuss children’s issues at forum).

Vicky Wicks reported on the powerful ideas that our first-class West River Democratic candidates have brought to the conversation this fall.

Some excerpts:

District 32 Democratic House candidate Beth Wojahn said prevention is assisted by early childhood programs, and every dollar spent is returned 16 times over. “If we don’t invest in kids now, we’re going to pay for it later,” she said.

(Wojahn had a sweet exchange with her opponent, unelected Rep. Brian Gosch, reported by the RC Journal story on this event.)

Democratic candidates Dennis Finch, for Senate, and Jeff Nelson, for House, both from District 33, agreed that the key to successfully overcoming poverty is education.

A better-educated populace leads to better wages and improved economy, Nelson said.

The RC Weekly continued...

But paying for education is a problem in South Dakota.

District 35 Democratic House candidate Curtis Marquardt said, “We should be ashamed” that we don’t support teachers with higher salaries, and he proposed a minimum statewide salary.

Fern Johnson, a Democratic House candidate also from District 35, said lottery money was supposed to support education and relieve property taxes, but now it’s channeled to cover other expenditures. She said the school funding burden should be flipped, with local governments paying 30% and state government paying 50%.

“Sooner or later, fantasy budgets meet reality,” she said. “That reality is here now.”

Raising salaries of parents is one line of attack to bring children out of poverty, and several [DEMOCRATIC -ed.] candidates offered ideas to make that happen.

District 32 Democratic House candidate Eric Abrahamson said that instead of waiting for out-of-state businesses to “ come in and save the day,” the state needs to invest from within, building the economy internally.

Kim Henderson, Democratic House candidate from District 33, said the state should pursue businesses that pay a living wage. If a business doesn’t do that, she said, they shouldn’t be supported with tax dollars.

District 34 Democratic House candidate Bonny Petersen recommended holding out-of-state businesses accountable not only for salaries, but also for healthcare.

As we've come to expect, the Republicans are not offering much more than talk, and some of them seem to think all is hunky dory....

District 34 Republican Senate candidate Craig Tieszen said that, as a former Rapid City chief of police, he witnessed the effects of child abuse and neglect. When cases get to court, it’s a response to something that’s already occurred, he said, and prevention would be more effective.

Well, Duh!

We need to remember that 30 years of Republican one-party rule in Pierre has given us more mandatory sentences and boot camp, and not much in the way of support for South Dakota's kids and young people.

Maybe they should start a bootstrap donor program?

District 35 Republican House incumbent Mark Kirkeby put a positive spin on the discussion. He acknowledged that school funding is low and blamed Gov. Mike Rounds in part for promoting higher education at a cost to K-12 education. But he pointed out that South Dakota has a high graduation rate and academically successful students.

What Kirkeby didn't mention is that this academic success is not shared between urban and rural areas, and especially not shared with our Native American brothers and sisters. And no kids benefit when librarians and counselors are cut so kids are left without those important supports in their academic and personal development.

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