$5M for education

Yesterday, I testified before the House Appropriations committee and proposed an amendment to move $5 million to education from economic development. This is such an important issue, I wanted to share excerpts from my remarks with you.

“I have an amendment to remove $5 million dollars from your bill and move it from the Future Fund allocation and move it to education. The fact is that the Future Fund ended the year with a balance of over $21 million dollars. The projection we were given in Appropriations, it would still have $10 million dollars next year and then it would have in $9 million dollars in the following year. The Future Fund is a discretionary fund for the governor, and while we support economic development I think the specifics of the economic development should be in the legislative actions and not in other actions.”

“…$5 million dollars was committed based on an expected revenue source that didn’t materialize because the people voted against that bill….the source for that $5 million dollars was a ten-percent cut in education.”

“…now I’m saying this increase in revenue from the citizens should go to where the citizens need it. That is in education and not where the citizens have rejected a proposal. As a consequence, this amendment would move $5 million dollars from this bill and put it to a per-pupil allocation in education.”

“This doesn’t mean that we have completely denuded the Future Fund. Indeed not, from the numbers given to us in this legislature there would be very adequate money for discretionary economic development from the Governor’s Office in the Future Fund…”

“…I would hope that someone would move, or that you go through 1060, that you take this $5 million dollars that was borrowed or otherwise moved from education and put it back where it belongs.”

It’s the know-how, stupid.

There is plenty of money available in South Dakota to do good business deals.  There is also some money around that will take a reasonable risk.  Where people come to think otherwise, it’s usually because there are also a lot of would-be entrepreneurs out there with bad ideas, no business skill, or both.   For them, financing will be hard to find—and should be.

Because the know-how is the hardest ingredient to come by, after many decades of running a business and helping countless others start a business, I came to the realization that the single best economic development policy we can have is a great school system, a great post-secondary system, and a great higher education system.

If money is tight in Pierre and we have to choose, we should choose to fund our schools.  That is where the know-how is created, but there’s another reason as powerful.  A community without good schools has zero chance of attracting a promising business to locate there and has limited chances of keeping the best and brightest of its offspring to keep things going into the next generation.

Visit two similar small towns in South Dakota, one failing and one thriving, and time after time you will see that the difference is that the thriving community had strong leadership and the other did not.

As always, this year the Legislature is presented with a number of proposals to fund economic development, including one proposal that appears to make good on a promise the Governor made to a private company, a promise made prematurely.

That one amounts to something between $5 and $7 million, and I’m going to be using my seat on the Appropriations Committee to try to get every nickel of it redirected to state aid to education.  There are a few other instances also traveling under the holy label of “economic development” where we’d be better off spending on the education of our children.

You’ve seen in my past few posts why I believe that know-how is the most important piece of the economic development puzzle and why I think that when in doubt, money for growing our economy should be spent educating our kids.   What’d I’d like right now is to hear your thoughts on that. Please share them.