- Associated Press - Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Daily Republic, Mitchell, March 5, 2014

Daugaard’s storm leadership flawed, not scandalous

This is South Dakota, where snowstorms howl and rage and generally make things miserable for residents from border to border. That’s just how it is here.

It’s also why we don’t agree with Joe Lowe, a Democrat who wants to run for governor, when he criticizes Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s response to an off-season blizzard that blitzed the state in October.

Lowe, during a visit with The Daily Republic, said Daugaard didn’t grasp “the magnitude of what happened” and criticized the governor’s decision to not open the state’s Emergency Operations Center during the storm. Lowe said the governor should have done more to warn people of the storm’s magnitude.

Lowe said it all adds up to a lack of leadership.

We do agree that the storm was a surprise, bringing with it as much as 4 feet of damp snow to western South Dakota. We checked forecasts that we published in The Daily Republic in the days leading up to the storm and we couldn’t find any prediction that called for nearly that much snowfall.

We do know the blizzard was well publicized in the days before it struck. Still, many cattle were caught unprotected out on the range, and that led to unprecedented livestock loss — as many as 43,000 head killed overall.

A spokesman for the governor told us the Emergency Operations Center was not opened because Daugaard felt Black Hills counties are experienced with winter storms and that they were able to coordinate their own efforts.

South Dakotans are a clever breed. We sense when bad weather is brewing, and we know to heed the warnings that come rolling across the television screen. Those that do not, do so at their own risk.

We don’t know what Daugaard could have done that would have changed the outcome of the storm.

Should the governor have opened the Emergency Operations Center in Pierre? In hindsight, probably yes. But this still isn’t Watergate.

The livestock loss is serious, and many ranchers will feel the sting for years to come. However, the most important statistic from the storm is that no human deaths occurred, as far as we know.

For that reason, we don’t fault Daugaard’s actions during the blizzard, nor do we think it is the great campaign issue Lowe makes it to be.


Capital Journal, Pierre, Feb. 27, 2014

On Common Core: This story needs a better villain

The big disappointment with some much-hyped films and novels is that the villain turns out to be a dud - you’d really like to believe he’s villainous because the story is in serious need of a bad guy, but on the scale of evil, he doesn’t add up to much.

That’s how it appears with Common Core during this session of the South Dakota Legislature, too. No matter how long we listen to the rhetoric of Common Core opponents in the Legislature, we can’t quite believe Common Core is the villain it’s made out to be.

Yes, we’d love to believe democracy and local control and the American way of life are at stake if we accept this set of guidelines about what should be at the core of our curriculum, but frankly, you don’t have to talk to too many educators before you start to hear that Common Core is not like that.

Instead, you begin to get a picture of Common Core as sort of like a middle-aged schoolteacher wearing spectacles who really, truly wants our children to do well and has some idea of what we should be teaching in common at the core of everything else we teach.

No wonder South Dakota lawmakers have been slow to embrace the anti-Common Core bills thus far this session. The bill they passed Wednesday seems like a consolation prize to make the anti-Common Core folks feel effective - a two-year moratorium on adopting any additional Common Core standards or other multi-state standards, even though state officials say there are no plans to adopt additional standards.

Talk about idle legislation. It’s as though we’ve handed our kids into the custody of the so-called villain, then we pass a bill to say that we as a state will not hand our kids into the custody of any more villains in the near future.

Frankly, opponents need a better villain, or at the very least, a better storyteller to give this middle-aged schoolteacher some more sinister credentials.

Until then, South Dakota’s lawmakers might as well get on with something else more meaningful.


Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, March 1, 2014

Help with busing to schools for specialty programs

As our city grows, it takes more time to get from one place to another in a typical day.

It’s true in our shopping and work lives, but it’s also true in trying to maintain our children’s daily schedules. The decision to enroll a child in an advanced program or a specialty school often can hinge on where that program is housed. How will it work into the daily commute for parents?

That’s why we’re encouraged by the efforts of the Sioux Falls School District to help parents transport their children to and from specialty schools.

The school board last week decided to extend a pilot busing project for a second year. They also decided to expand it to provide additional transportation options for students wanting to go to Edison Middle School for the Spanish immersion and honors programs that will be housed there.

The program launched last year makes busing available for a fee for families who want children to attend one of the district’s specialty schools. Those include the Spanish immersion program at Rosa Parks; All City at Jane Addams; Eugene Field A+ Elementary; and the Challenge Center at Garfield.

For $50 to $150 per semester, depending on family income, a child can be bused from a nearby elementary school to the specialty school.

Interest in the transportation program that first year was lower than administrators had expected, but they hope usage will grow as the program becomes better known.

We think this is the right approach for the school district to take.

In order for students to benefit from the various specialty programs offered by the Sioux Falls School District, they have to be able to get to the schools housing those programs. Helping parents with this challenge is an important role for the school district to play.

Setting the cost up on a sliding scale based on family income makes it accessible for many more families.

Access to such programs regardless of ability to pay is essential.

This busing program should continue. It is a sound investment in providing broader access to valuable educational programs.

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