South Dakota Editorial Roundup

Excerpts from recent South Dakota editorials

The Associated Press

Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, May 23, 2013

No thanks, FEMA, we’re good

Sioux Falls has a history of being self-sufficient and generous. This is a place where we don’t ask for help unless we really need it.

That’s what makes a discussion over whether Sioux Falls should refuse federal money for an April storm cleanup so interesting.

The storm caused millions of dollars in damage in the area, and Sioux Falls city officials have done a fantastic job of cleaning up an astounding amount of tree branches. In addition, people in the city voluntarily have helped neighbors and strangers who needed an extra hand to get their yards cleared of debris.

Because the county was named a disaster area, officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been in the area this week to figure out what cleanup costs are eligible for reimbursement. Using a formula, the city of Sioux Falls could get paid up to 75 percent from the federal government and 10 percent from the state for some of those expenses.

We urge the city to turn down the money.

We can and have taken care of ourselves after this storm. And we’ve done a good job. The city can afford to pay the costs associated with the cleanup because we have $40 million in reserve funds. We recently came up with ways to spend $1.8 million in capital surplus funds, including $63,000 for a digital projector at the State Theatre.

Some councilors agree with this idea and are taking the right approach: We can take care of it without raising taxes to do it. Others want to see what it costs, while at least one says we should take the federal money.

This country has financial problems, in part, because cities have just taken the money. Little by little, just because someone qualifies, the federal government provides help even if a city such as Sioux Falls can afford to take care of an emergency by itself.

There are projects, some such as Lewis & Clark Regional Water System, that desperately need federal money to deliver water in the area. All we have to do is look at the tornado in Oklahoma to realize there are weather-related emergencies that are far, far worse than our ice storm.

Even Minnehaha and Lincoln counties, which also have applied for federal aid for storm damage expenses, may be justified to take the money. They are financially in a different position than the city.

We, however, just don’t need the money in Sioux Falls.

We can be independent. We’re just fine.

___

Capital Journal, Pierre, May 22, 2013

It’s another title for Title Town

Chances are you’ve already read the sports story on our front page and maybe on our sports section before you got to this part of the newspaper, because sports is once again the big news of the day. For the third time this year, T.F. Riggs High School has claimed a state championship for its athletic programs, in girls’ golf this time.

It’s the first time the Lady Govs have won the state AA golf title, but no one should be surprised. After all, Pierre’s girl golfers came in second in last year’s state tournament, and they’re led by Hallie Getz, who has just won the title as the state’s best golfer in girls’ competition for the second year in a row.

The team was in second place on Monday, but rallied in Tuesday’s play as Getz cruised to her individual title.

What has seemed remarkable all year is how well the team performed for being without a course for so long after the flood of 2011 kept people off the course for all of 2012.

The golf title is a nice addition to the hardware the T.F. Riggs program’s collected this year for winning the state A wrestling tournament and the state AA boys’ basketball tournament. It’s a great recommendation for the quality of the sports programs in the capital city, and the quality of our athletes.

People with ties to Riggs High School will remember 2013 as the year it rained titles.

A standing ovation for everyone involved.

___

Daily Republic, Mitchell, May 23, 2013

Thank God for weather warnings

Friday, a nasty-looking storm brewed on the horizon. The Daily Republic’s radar and weather alerts showed no severity, however. Neither did radio or television reports.

It made us wonder what it would have been like to live on the South Dakota prairie a century ago, when nobody knew if the next ominous cloud was a killer or simply nature’s way of providing life-giving moisture.

Imagine having no idea whatsoever if shelter is needed. It had to have been nerve-wracking.

A lot has changed, and for the better. When a massive tornado this week tore through the suburbs of Oklahoma City, residents of that area were warned more than a half-hour in advance. We know that at least 24 people have died as a result of that twister, but we also know that without the precise warning from the National Weather Service, it could have been so much worse.

South Dakota is not immune to inclement, and deadly, weather. If anything, we are immune to weather warnings, which sometimes don’t seem to cause much concern.

This spring, we restate our consistent pleas to readers to heed warnings when ominous weather approaches. We are blessed to live in a time when the media is very capable of delivering news about oncoming storms.

Radio and TV stations provide live updates. Weather radios sound alarms. Tornado sirens blare in our neighborhoods. Newspapers — including this one — are now capable of sending out alerts to mobile phones at only the cost of a standard text message.

Please pay attention this spring and summer, and when warnings are issued, heed them.

Unfortunately, many people died in Oklahoma earlier this week. But imagine the carnage if no warnings had sounded.

We are so lucky that this technology exists. Let’s be sure to put it to the best possible use.

___

Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, May 26, 2013

Bible course is a curriculum we don’t need

Superintendent Tim Mitchell is asking the Rapid City Area Schools Board, in response to a non-binding resolution by the 2012 South Dakota Legislature that encourages the academic study of the Bible in public schools, to consider a Bible curriculum, or at least a policy on teaching about religion.

We’re asking them not to.

We already expect our overextended and underfunded school system to do so much. In addition to making students proficient in reading, writing, math, science, language, and other basic educational tasks, we expect schools to teach music, art, foreign languages, health and physical education, too. Then we ask them to nurture the social and emotional health of students in their care, as well, by providing counseling, guidance and a host of other social services and mental health help in the school setting.

Must they also now take responsibility for providing the “content, characters and narratives of the Bible” for students?

We think not.

At least, not in a separate, semester-long course devoted entirely to examining the Bible’s influence in the culture, literature and art of the world, and, more specifically, its role in the writing of the constitution of the United States.

It would be a colossal undertaking of time and effort just to reach agreement on what to teach in such a curriculum and which works of literature and art to include in any such course syllabus. It would be virtually impossible to reach meaningful consensus, given the inherent limitations of a high school curriculum, on more intangible things, such as what role did the Bible and the religious beliefs of America’s founding fathers play in the framing of the U.S. Constitution and our democracy. Just as there are many differing interpretations of the creation story in the Book of Genesis, there are many perspectives on the spiritual beliefs of Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and other founding fathers. Which ones should we teach?

Opening that can of worms, when our school budgets are struggling with tangible things such as overcrowded kindergarten rooms and disappointing high school graduation rates, just doesn’t make any sense to us. We want public schools to teach English literacy, not biblical literacy.

If a literature course needs to examine the Biblical references found in a Shakespearean play or the Christian themes of a Flannery O’Connor short story, by all means, talk about them. If an American government class needs to put the concept of religious liberty into context for a chapter on the First Amendment, great. Those are appropriate classroom discussions, and we would hope that those are already happening in our school system today. But we don’t think those are lessons that should take an entire semester to impart.

We don’t believe that biblical literacy or biblical interpretation is the job of the public education system. That type of religious understanding and formation is best left in the homes and churches, where parents can choose what religious beliefs to impart to their children.

A public school class that is 100 percent devoted to teaching about the Bible and its impact on our culture is simply rife with too much potential for abuse and the school board would be wise to avoid it.

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