October 29, 2007

Déja vu all over again?

That’s what South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long said to describe a new education finance lawsuit filed against the state. Long was chief deputy attorney general when the state won against a similar lawsuit back in 1994.


“The state won across the board [in 1994] and you know what? The system didn’t collapse. South Dakota students aren’t flunking out of high school, and South Dakota students are able to get into college, and some are actually doing pretty well. None of the ‘sky is falling’ scenarios came to pass,” says Long now.


According to the Daily Republic, “The plaintiff in the new lawsuit is the ‘South Dakota Coalition of Schools, et al.’ — a group supported by some parents and students, 74 school districts and the SDEA. The suit claims that the Legislature is failing its constitutional obligation to adequately fund schools. A study that’s the basis of the current lawsuit claims that annual funding for K-12 education in South Dakota is falling short of needs by $134 million to $406 million a year.”


But now the State Board of Education is knee-deep in the issue. “Long’s ire had been raised by a Thursday Daily Republic news story. The story revealed that two members of the state Board of Education had said during depositions that the state is not providing adequate funding for education.


‘Here’s the deal,’ Long said Friday. ‘Members of the state Board of Education don’t have the power to give school districts a nickel, unless they pull it out of their own pocket and do it personally. It’s the Legislature that has the power to give K-12 education more money, and guess where the Legislature has to go and get it. They’ve got to come and get it from you and me.


‘Here’s what this lawsuit is all about,’ he continued. ’The school districts were unable to convince the Legislature to do that, so now they’re trying to convince courts to order the Legislature to do that,’” reports the newspaper.