Thursday, April 9, 2009

South Dakota judge ignores State Constitution intent

From today's Argus Leader:
South Dakota students aren't guaranteed a quality education, a circuit judge ruled Wednesday, finding that the way the state pays for education does not violate the state constitution. [sic]

This is news to me. The State Constitution reads:
(emphasis mine)
§ 1. Uniform system of free public schools. The stability of a republican form of government depending on the morality and intelligence of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature to establish and maintain a general and uniform system of public schools wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all; and to adopt all suitable means to secure to the people the advantages and opportunities of education.

I guess it depends on your definition of "secure," that is, whether that means "guarantee" or not. And whether you think "advantages" means an effective and quality education. Clearly, Judge Wilbur disagrees, and that is her right as an independent judge. I don't think she took a look at the trends, which are not looking good, especially for our rural kids and our non-white kids, who are in big trouble as the state funding formula continues to squeeze our school districts over time.

Judge Wilbur was quoted in an AP story posted by Teacher Magazine--and boy do I agree with her on this. It's time to stop blaming our school boards and administrators (though there is serious room for improvement there in Rapid City) for the root of the problem. The blame falls squarely on the majority in our State Legislature and our Governor and their priorities:
"As such, the court's opinion as to the best way to educate the children of this state is irrelevant. There is no doubt that there is room for improvement with the state's education system. The same could be said for every state in the nation," Wilbur wrote. "Many of the policy options discussed in this trial may improve education in this state, and these options should be given serious consideration by the Legislature."

The RC Journal report quotes Gov. Marion Rounds. As expected, the Governor is all heart, but he's right about the Legislature too. Too bad his party faithful aren't really giving "serious consideration" of the long-term consequences of their dual failure of a) an inadequate, unfair tax system and b) their outrageously misplaced spending priorities. Rounds:
"We have a constitutional school funding formula, and we're going to do our best to maintain it. The place where these decisions must be made is at the legislative level," the governor said.

Eric Abrahamson summed it up very well at Our Rapid City Schools:
Clearly, those of us who believe we have a moral obligation and an inherent self-interest in doing more for our children need to continue to make our case in the most important court in South Dakota - the court of public opinion.


  1. Your headline makes me laugh. When did the legislature or anybody in this state take into account the State Constitution intent? Rapid City denies gays and lesbians the protections of the law...with the South Dakota Family Policy Council saying the 14th amendment protects gays and why can't we have access to over 400 state and over 1000 federal benefits of marriage? Because the 14th Amendment isn't applied in South Dakota. One is only equal in South Dakota when one owns property, is white, is heterosexual and male. And that is pretty much the state legislature, the courts and everybody else. The words in the State Constitution guaranteeing equal treatment under law are a complete joke. South Dakota is a joke...and there are some of us who aren't laughing.

  2. Nick Nemec16:20

    I agree with you. My only quibble is that Judge Wilber is a she not a he.

  3. I'll fix that.