Editorial: Education Cuts Threaten Our Future

There are a lot of reasons to move to or stay in South Dakota.

It’s generally inexpensive to live here. There’s no state income tax. People are nice, homes are reasonably priced and schools are pretty good.

But it’s also cold, dark, windy and isolated.

And, if you work in higher education, it’s low-paying.

We talk a big talk here in South Dakota about investing in our future, about valuing education and about attracting professionals to the state for good jobs. We lament a brain drain of the state’s best and brightest students to out-of-state schools.

Then the state turns around and freezes wages for three years for professors and others at colleges and universities.

We can’t be both a great state for students and a lousy one for educators.

Universities already have watched professors leave for neighboring states, where average wages are $10,000 or more above South Dakota’s. In some cases, they won’t be replaced. Instead, those classes will be taught by graduate students and adjunct professors.

This all comes after big hikes in tuitions and fees in the state.

Soon, parents and students will get smart and realize they are paying more – in some cases, much more – for much, much less at our state schools.

And then an even bigger brain drain will begin.

The Board of Regents has asked Gov. Dennis Daugaard to end the salary drought and wants a 4 percent bump for all state workers in his next budget.

At the very least, the regents should allow universities to balance their own budgets, manage their own finances and give out raises how and when they see fit.

It’s time to stop micromanaging the universities. Let them be competitive.

But what we most hope for is the realization – by the governor, Legislature and business leaders – that deep cuts we’ve made in education threaten our quality of life.

The future of our teachers, students and work force – the ability of South Dakotans to compete in a competitive global economy – depends on a long-term reinvestment in education.

We’re ready to hear the plan.

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