A new year is a time for new resolutions. The usual ones include resolving to eat less, workout more, get more sleep, be more organized, be less stressed, and so on and so forth. Then the holiday break ends, and we head back to school where our students take most, if not all, of our attention. Our resolutions often fade, and we vow to be better with a resolution next year. What if we did something different and made this year’s resolution about our students? What if we all resolved to stand up and fight for our students and their education?
In December, Governor Kristi Noem outlined her vision for the FY2021 budget. Unfortunately, her proposal freezes education funding for both K-12 and higher ed. When legislators increased the state sales tax by a half a penny and created the new funding formula, they also promised to continue to increase state funding by three percent or the rate of inflation, which ever is less, on a yearly basis. They said without yearly increases, even modest ones, the increase given that year would slowly be eroded over time. If legislators adopt Governor Noem’s proposal, it would be the second time in less than four years that state leaders failed to keep their promise to the students of South Dakota. The erosion has already begun.
What can we do about it? The Governor’s budget proposal is just the starting point. For the next two months, educators can stand up for students by engaging in a dialogue with their legislators who will have the final say on the state funding (increase or lack of) our schools receive. By talking to legislators about our students’ needs, we paint a very important picture of what our students stand to lose without funding. Does it mean less access to a school counselor? Does it mean fewer career and technical education opportunities? Does it mean students will have less one-on-one time with their teachers? Look at your classrooms and schools. What tools and resources does your school need to give your students the best education possible? What will your students lose?
How do you keep this resolution? Pay attention. What are you hearing in the news? Have you signed up for Lobby Line? Are you following SDEA on Twitter and Facebook? Write a letter to your legislators. Tell them about your school and what a two-percent increase will mean for your students. Attend your local coffees and cracker barrels. These are the best opportunities for back-home one-on-one conversations. Finally, come to Pierre for SDEA’s Lobby Day on February 17–18. Show that you are united with your fellow educators in this fight for our students.
Let’s keep the resolution for the rest of the year. Let’s keep the dialogue going. Invite legislators into your schools and classrooms to show first hand where the state’s investment is going. Don’t stop at the legislature. Be involved at the local level. Attend school board meetings. Get involved with local school board elections. Encourage supportive community members to run for office. Talk to your community leaders. Let them know about the needs of your school and students. Build relationships that endure.
If we all resolve to stand together for our students, we can offer them the world. This is my resolution…who’s with me?
Thank you for everything you do for your students. They need you to be their advocate both in and outside the classroom. They need your voice. Thank you for using it on their behalf during this legislative session.