GOOD: For the first time in nearly a quarter of a century, South Dakota teachers are not the lowest paid in the nation. According to a recent report from the National Education Association, the state moved from 51st to 48th in teacher pay in the 2016-17 school year, which is good news for students, schools and teachers. The report said teachers earned an average salary of $46,979 in 2016-17 compared to $42,025 the previous year when the state was last in the nation where it had been since 1985. It was work done by the Blue Ribbon Task Force appointed in 2015 by Gov. Dennis Daugaard and legislation approved in 2016 by the Legislature that raised the sales tax by a half cent and earmarked the money for teacher pay. An increase in pay makes it easier to recruit and retain teachers while showing those considering a move to the state that we understand the value of a good public education system.
BAD: Richard Kriebel, a candidate for Pennington County Commission, recently took dead aim at Douglas High School where the children of airmen from Ellsworth Air Force Base are enrolled. Last week, the county commission approved spending $44,000 for a police liaison officer at the school. Before the vote, Kriebel opposed the request from the sheriff’s office by comparing the school district to a “panhandler” who has a “car that’s nicer than yours.” Kriebel’s broadside at the school included a swipe at Federal Impact Aid, which is provided to school districts that are denied property tax revenue as a result of having federal property in their jurisdiction. In this case, it is Ellsworth Air Force Base, which is not only a key cog in the nation’s national defense apparatus but pumps millions of dollars into the county’s economy. It’s hard to understand why someone seeking a public office would have such animus toward a district populated by students from an Air Force base that is actively fighting the war on terror. Meanwhile, the “panhandler” will spend $32,000 to share costs for the new officer.
UGLY: It must have come as quite a shock to the residents of Skyline Health Care’s 18 nursing homes in South Dakota — including four in Rapid City — and their loves ones. Last week, a representative of the New Jersey-based company told the state Department of Health and Human Services that it no longer had money to purchase food and medicine for its presumably paying clientele. "Bottom line, the South Dakota facilities are in harm's way and all resident's safety is at risk and will increase every day," a divisional vice president for Skyline's South Dakota facilities informed the state. She also told the state that two Rapid City facilities — Bella Vista Health Care and Prairie Hills Care — hadn’t paid their water bills and could lose that service. As a result, a judge appointed Black Hills Receiver to take over the business operations of the nursing homes that serve approximately 900 residents. How can this occur in a regulated industry in the state? What assurances do the residents and their families have that they won’t be victimized again by a future owner? A full investigation and report is in order.