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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Elli Schwiesow on Education Funding

Dakota Voice continues our series from an issues-interview with Independent District 32 senate candidate Elli Schwiesow.

Schwiesow, a life-long Republican, is running against incumbent Democrat Tom Katus and Republican Stan Adelstein.

In this series, Schwiesow has discussed her stand on the issues of
taxes, Second Amendment rights, universal preschool, energy, Native American issues, and Initiated Measure 11. Today she discusses education funding.

"I am not in favor of education regulations or mandates both state and federal that contribute to cost but little to education," said Schwiesow. "Eliminating mandates would put more money in the classroom and whenever education money is spent, it should be spent as close to the student as possible--books, blackboards, computers, desks, etc. If the student touches it, it has priority over other uses."

On the current education funding lawsuit which has some South Dakota schools suing the state government for more taxpayer funding, Schwiesow doesn't think it will succeed.

"I do think the school funding formula will change in the coming legislative session," she said. " There is lower population density in the western part of the state and we have always been on the losing end of education funding. The school boards and the citizens have brought it to the attention of their representatives, and I think the legislature is ready to make some changes."

She acknowledges that more consolidation is probably a reality, and that it will be tough, but are necessary.

Schwiesow said, "School consolidations will be a reality, though exactly what the cutoff number will be has yet to be determined. But we've been consolidating schools for many years, and while it is sometimes hard, it can become necessary. I think it's the state of Utah which only has five school districts and five superintendents for the whole state."

She pointed out that the general fund has gone from $70 million to $79 million in two years, and the state aid has gone from $28 million to $32 million in that same time frame. This shows that funding has gone up without any real increase in the number of students enrolled.

All the same, Schwiesow sees a lot of good in the South Dakota education system.

"I went to a Board of Regents meeting and they discussed how 70% of our high school graduates continue their education," said Schwiesow. "About 60% of those kids go to school here in the state of South Dakota."

She would also like to see an expansion in vocational education.

"Everyone needs an education but not everyone needs or wants a college education," Schwiesow said. "Give our young people the opportunity to learn skills that will bring them better job opportunities."

In the next and final installment, Elli Schwiesow talks about health care in South Dakota.


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