Pierre Direct Line By Rep. Judy Clark One of the pleasant bonuses of being an elected official is being invited to speak to groups. Last Sunday evening I joined the Senate majority and minority leaders, and the House minority leader on a Legislative panel in Pierre for USD graduate students in educational administration.
All the students are working on doctoral degrees and obviously are concerned about the future of education, especially in South Dakota. They were well informed about the bills in the Legislature that might affect education, and asked good questions.
One bill we discussed was the proposal to require drivers education to be taught in all schools. Although the goal is admirable, as I told the group, I have two problems with the plan as presented.
I have s strong philosophical opposition to placing more and more social responsibilities on our schools and teachers. Every time we mandate a program, no matter how admirable, we take teachers and staff away from their primary responsibility of teaching academic subjects. Teachers are snowed under now by forms and reports. Even if a third party ran the courses, someone from the school would have to administer it. I want teachers to teach.
My second point of opposition is that the funding would come from raising the drivers license from $8 to $18 — and if the funds collected from that were not sufficient, then the rest would come out of the general tax fund.
As a member of the appropriations committee, I guess I'm more aware than non-committee members that the amount of money not obligated and thus available for new programs is very limited. To countenance a mandate which has the possibility of an unknown amount of shortfall in funding in an already lean budget is not good public policy.
The next day I was pleased to see some of these students in the audience of the Senate Local Affairs Committee when I testified on behalf of my bill to more clearly define conflict of interest for local officials. It passed 5-1 and then passed the Senate on a 21-13 vote. I was very disappointed that one of the legislators from District 17 didn't vote for this bill, which protects all council members, commissioners and school board members from being blind sided by undefined charges of conflict of interest.
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