The Vermillion Rotary club met at noon on Nov. 29 in the Freedom Forum on the campus of USD. President Mercy Hobbs opened the meeting and announced that she will be absent for the next month to recuperate from donating a kidney for transplant to a friend. This very generous act not only exemplifies the Rotary motto of "service above self," but is courageous and self-sacrificing for a lady who holds a demanding job as rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church. God bless your generosity, Rev. Hobbs.
Announcements of several Christmas activities by our club were given, ranging from providing gifts for the children of two needy families and helping with food for 50 Vermillion families (a teamwork project with the Vermillion Lion's Club), to the Club Christmas Dinner on Dec. 13.
Vermillion Rotary will also be manning the phones for a SD Public TV fund-raising appeal on Dec. 8, and acting as bell ringers for the Salvation Army's Christmas fund drive.
Our program was presented by Jack Marsh, local director of the Al Neuharth sponsored Freedom Forum. Marsh, an experienced journalist, originally from Niagara Falls, NY, was employed seven years ago by the Al Neuharth Foundation to oversee several of its efforts to promote diversity in media employment, especially by getting Native Americans into journalism, and by educating the American public about freedom of the press and its importance in American Society.
The Freedom Forum provides an annual "boot camp" for Native American journalism candidates, and has organized several Newseums over the years (Newseum being a combination of "news" and "museum").
The first "Newseum" by the Neuharth Foundation was a traveling show of three semi-truck loads of materials plus ancillary vehicles for 22 employees that traveled in all 50 states and a few Canadian Provinces, and was visited by some 300,000 persons. This has been replaced by a stationary Newseum in Arlington, VA, which has been open for the past several years.
The Al Neuharth Foundation is now in the process of building a $400 million Newseum on Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, DC, which promises to be great draw to the 2 million tourists each year. This Newseum will feature a number of documentaries, along with artifacts from news history, including the largest section of the Berlin wall outside of Germany (there is only one such piece in Germany).
It will also include a number of interactive exhibits that will help the visitor understand how news is made, recorded and published.
Rotarians discuss education funding
The Vermillion Rotary Club gathered Nov. 22 at the Neuharth Center on the campus of USD. President Mercy Hobbs called the meeting to order and also provided the invocation. Three guests were introduced. They were: Tom Craig, Vermillion School Board president; Paul Opsahl, assistant pastor at the Vermillion UCC; and Paul Noble, son of member Rotarian Jack Noble and also a programmer for Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
Ben Nesselhuff introduced the program concerning school funding led by Pat Norin who is a member of the Centerville School Board. She reported that a funding study is under way to determine what other states are doing to address the issue of school funding and to determine how it should be done. One question to be addressed is do we continue to fund on a per student basis, or should the state be looking at the broader question of how do we promote the education of our children to help them succeed.
The question the Legislature is asking is what does it cost to educate students in the state of South Dakota? All the students are doing an excellent job across the state even though South Dakota has the lowest cost in the nation per student. The cost is approximately $4,200 per student on the average.
The concept of Adequacy Funding is to try to determine what it would cost to make sure each student is successful. South Dakota has some of the strictest standards for "no child left behind."
A Denver firm has been brought in to study what is adequate funding. They will hold meetings to report their findings. A rumor suggests that they will be recommending additional funding of about $1,500 per student. Vermillion has about 1,200 students, which would bring in an additional $1.9 million if the Legislature approves.
Kansas conducted an adequacy study and sued the state. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court and their demands were met. Another possibility would be an incremental increase until adequacy demands are met.
Other funding options might include enforcing property tax laws already on the books. This could increase state revenue by about $3 billion. Norin suggested property and sales taxes may be inadequate and that a one-penny sales tax might be a way to alleviate the cost deficit without an undue burden on anyone. Another possibility would be to look at a personal income tax.
The bottom line is that educational funding in South Dakota is inadequate. As a state we need to sit down and figure out how to adequately fund education to meet the needs of our children who are our future.