Rounds wants students to have laptops

Rounds wants students to have laptops
Gov. Mike Rounds opened his state of the state address Jan. 10 by listing successes of the past year and thanked lawmakers for their help in achieving his goals.

"Working together we are making South Dakota even better," Rounds said.

Rounds' speech opened the first day of the 2006 Legislative Session. The session's main run ends on Feb. 28.

Keeping Ellsworth Air Force Base open, approving money to build an underground laboratory and economic development achieve-ments were three areas the governor highlighted as state successes.

Since lawmakers approved money to fund the underground lab Rounds said the state has received inquiries from 40 universities, nine national laboratories and 15 universities in nine other countries.

He also talked about the additional $118 per student the Legislature approved for K-12 education funding last year. The Legislature added another $32 per student.

"This year I'm proposing even more to help our K-12 students achieve," Rounds said.

The governor wants to increase education payments by $127 per student this session.

A study sponsored by a number of school districts said $102 million more was needed to adequately fund the state's education system.

"I understand their frustration," Rounds said of educators. "I want to work with schools and cooperate with schools."

Rounds said if schools want more money they should prepare goal-oriented plans for how that money will be spent. In his 2010 Education Initiative unveiled the week before the state of the state speech, Rounds said his initiative includes action plans to increase school achievement versus just allocating more money.

"Most of our schools do a good job of educating our students, but we can always do more," he said.

Part of Rounds 2010E initiative includes a pilot program to buy laptops for high school students. Schools would give $2 for every $1 paid by the state. The plan has caused discussion among lawmakers and educators about how schools would pay for the match and then support the computers' upkeep after the purchase.

Sen. B.J. Nesselhuf, D-Vermillion, said that this was not the best state of the state he has heard. Nesselhuf said that he liked Rounds' plan to increase the minimum wage, but wanted to hear more details. He also wanted to hear more of what the agenda was going to be for this session. Nesselhuf said that the speech was, "a whole lot of cheerleading."

Rep. Donna Schafer, R-Vermillion, said Rounds' state of the state was a good speech with a lot of insight into what the governor wants to accomplish. She wanted to hear more on early childhood education and the laptop initiative. She has some concerns about the laptop plan.

Rep. Jamie Boomgarden, R-Chancellor, said that he wanted to hear more on education, and the plan to supply students with computers. Boomgarden said that it would be favorable to put computers in the hands of children.

During his address Rounds also proposed:

? Making it more difficult to manufacture methamphetamine by placing cold medicines containing those ingredients behind pharmacy counters. Those purchasing the products would have to sign a registry.

? Increasing the state's minimum wage. The federal government has not raised the minimum wage for several years. Rounds said in a press briefing prior to the state of the state address that he thinks this is the year to consider a state increase, but he didn't say by how much.

? Two new felonies to deal with sex offenders. One would punish those harboring the offenders and another would attempt to punish offenders who threaten to commit similar crimes once they are released from jail.

Rounds also congratulated state linemen for the work they did in restoring power to the 56,000 customers who lost it during an early December snow and ice storm. The state sponsored Operation Door-to-Door during that time. Local people who were unable to leave their homes or needed medicine and alternative heat sources were contacted and helped.

"We didn't yell and we didn't scream," Rounds said. "Instead we rolled up our sleeves and went to work."

Finally, Rounds ended his speech by honoring military personnel who served the state and nation; and recognized those service people who have died in Iraq.

"Each and every one of us has the opportunity to worship the Good Lord the way we see fit," Rounds said. "That freedom is not protected by the preacher but by the men and women who generation after generation have worn the uniform of the United States of America."

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