Local candidates generally agree on education issues

Local candidates generally agree on education issues by David Lias The small audience that attended a Wednesday night legislative forum in the Vermillion School Library learned that, for the most part, District 17 candidates generally share many of the same views about education.

All of the candidates, for example, indicated that they didn't feel basing education funding on a school district's test scores was a good idea.

"But on the other hand, I think we need to have a way to define how school districts look," Rep. Judy Clark said. Testing, she said, could be used to determine accountability issues.

Sen. Joe Reedy, Vermillion, declined to comment on school testing. His opponent, Donna Schafer of Vermillion, noted there are many pros and cons to testing.

"To have one test fit all would be terrible," she said. "I would think that a state or a local school system could come up with some type of testing that would be acceptable and would be based on what is felt to be important to be taught."

Other participants in the education forum were Rep. H. Junior Engbrecht of Marion, and state House candidates B.J. Nesselhuf and Maxine Johnson, all of Vermillion.

All six candidates indicated that they oppose the formation of voucher school districts because of limited funds in South Dakota. In general, the six candidates also indicated that education should be a priority in the state, that teacher salaries should be improved, and that school districts be given better means to make capital improvements.

All of the candidates were in virtual agreement on a legislative proposal that would forgive student loans of men and women who agree to teach in South Dakota.

Johnson said South Dakotans need to realize that teachers invest much in their own educations.

"I think we need to look at the financial part of it," she said. "They need to recoup their investment. I would be in favor of a declining percentage (of forgiveness) each year."

Engbrecht said the bottom line is dollars.

"I think we've got some of our benefits in place now, but we don't spend the dollars we need for quality teachers," he said.

All of the participants in the forum, except for Clark, voiced support for a bill scheduled to be introduced this legislative session that would increase the state aid formula by a minimum of 3 percent of the rate of inflation.

Clark noted that she believes a better way to increase funding would be to allocate more money for each pupil enrolled in the state's public school districts.

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