Thursday, August 12, 2010

South Dakota and School Money: Newspeak Edition

Yesterday Governor Mike Rounds announced that South Dakota would take $21 million in federal funding but may not accept an additional $26 million for K-12 education. KELO has a summary here.  The Rapid City Journal has a report here.

However, the story that caught my attention is Chet Brokaw's piece on Bloomberg Businessweek.  Brokaw begins, "South Dakota may not be able to use more than half of the federal aid it's due to get from a jobs bill passed Tuesday by Congress because of state rules on spending for schools, Gov. Mike Rounds said." [bold mine] (I suppose I should use a journalistic term like "lead" or "lede," but that would dignify Brokaw's paragraph as objective journalism.)

According to the Madville Times, South Dakota is 50th in state revenue spent per student on K-12 education and 48th  in per pupil spending on school administration [bold in orginal].  Given those stats, it seems odd that the state would not be able to "use" the money.  There are some definitions that Brokaw can use to show that he used the word properly.  In this situation, however, "to use" connotes a word like "utilize."  Surely the South Dakota can find ways to utilize the funds.  The other connotation here is that the federal government has made it impossible to accept the money.  That's not really the case either.

The reasons Rounds may not accept the money are given two paragraphs down.
But it might not take an extra $26 million in education aid because acceptance of the money could trigger an increase in local school districts' property taxes under the language of South Dakota's school funding law, the governor said. The federal money also would boost public education spending for one year but provide no way to maintain that level of spending in future years, he said.
South Dakota's refusal to accept federal largess seem to have little to do with the ability to "use" the money.  Rather, South Dakota will resist any efforts to raise taxes.  Further, South Dakota has no plans to increase its level of K-12 funding in the future.

By the way, the Rapid City Journal quotes Governor Rounds as saying “We’d like to use the $26 million. But if it means we need to raise local property taxes to go along with it, I don’t think we’d go along with that,”  he said." [bold mine] (I think I just buried the lede, but I'm not trying to be objective here.)

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