RAPID CITY, South Dakota — Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, May 1, 2013
Make better use of travel money
Sometimes the value of something is nowhere worth what it costs.
We think that is the case of the recent debate over whether the state should pick up the tab for memberships and travel for all legislators to go to the American Legislative Exchange Council conferences.
First the background: Lawmakers haven't paid for travel and membership to professional groups for a while because of budget cuts. This year, they approved a $500,000 budget for trips, deciding that the money would go to $50 memberships for everyone to ALEC, and that travel to one conference would be allowed.
But Democrats in the Legislature have asked that the state not buy those memberships for them because they see ALEC as a conservative group dominated by Republicans and corporations.
No matter where you are politically, it's clear that the state shouldn't buy memberships for everyone to belong to ALEC. It's ridiculous that state taxpayers would pay those fees.
It's fine for lawmakers to pay their own membership and travel to any professional conference they choose, no matter who sponsors it. This group's membership and conferences just are not something for which the taxpayer should be billed. There are better examples of groups and conferences designed specifically for legislators to have a chance to talk about policy issues with elected lawmakers from other states. That, at least, would serve a broad-based public interest.
While ALEC conferences may have good content, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Council of State Governments both are longstanding, nonpartisan groups specifically for state officials.
While seeking outside ideas and learning about issues affecting others is an important aspect of a citizen Legislature, the state needs to make its $500,000 count.
That's why it is important to find a better way to spend this money, one that doesn't raise eyebrows and red flags.
Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, May 5, 2013
Right to update bullying policy
Bullying has always been a problem among children. Schools are recognizing the problem and are making more of an effort to prevent bullying at school, and even when students are not on school grounds.
Last month, the Rapid City Area Schools District adopted a new anti-bullying policy that includes cyberbullying — where students use social media to humiliate their classmates.
The policy is in response to a 2012 state law that requires school districts to adopt policies against bullying and a nationwide push to address the recent phenomenon of cyberbullying.
According to a 2010 U.S. Department of Education study, one in five adolescents said that they had been victims of cyberbullying, and about the same number admit to having been a cyberbully. To help illustrate the sometimes tragic consequences of cyberbullying, an April 21 Journal front-page story included photos of teens who committed suicide because of online bullying.
The school district's policy defines bullying as:
"Bullying consists of repeated physical, verbal, non-verbal, written, electronic or any conduct directed toward a student(s) that is so pervasive, severe and objectively offensive that it:
"1) has the purpose of creating or resulting in an intimidating, hostile or offensive academic environment, or
"2) has the purpose or effect of substantially or unreasonably interfering with a student's academic performance which deprives the student access to educational opportunities."
The district's policy extends to using electronic communication and devices to send or post messages that are "harassing, teasing, intimidating, threatening or terrorizing another person."
Parents are the first line of defense in teaching children good behavior. Schools are a close second and often are where children first learn to get along with other people, i.e., their classmates. Anti-bullying policies are vital tools to educate children about the harmful effects of bullying and the importance of getting along with other people and treating each other with respect.
The school district's bullying policy does not diminish the role that parents have in disciplining their children, and parents still need to monitor their children's use of the Internet and electronic devices.
Not every student will get the message, and schools need to have the policies in place in order to correct the behavior of students who are targeting other students in harmful or threatening ways. And as young people become more involved in social media, cyberbullying policies also become important.
We support the Rapid City school district's policies against bullying and cyberbullying. We credit Superintendent Tim Mitchell and the school board for taking on bullying in the school system, and creating a policy to address bullying and cyberbullying.
The Daily Republic, May 2, 2013
SDHSAA's site choices don't always measure up
When Wayne Carney, executive director of the South Dakota High School Activities Association, spoke last week in Mitchell, he said it's important that he keep his organization's best interest in mind when making decisions on its behalf.
"My job is to run the (SDHSAA) as a business," he told the Mitchell Quarterback Club. "I have nothing against any city or town, but we want to hold tournaments where it will be the best turnout."
We have been hard on the SDHSAA over the years, after that organization decided that Mitchell no longer can host state basketball tournaments. The problem is that the SDHSAA has declared that the Corn Palace does not have enough seating to justify giving it regular turns as a basketball host.
We disagree with Carney about his role. The SDHSAA is not a business. It's a nonprofit that, according to its own website, exists to "direct and coordinate interscholastic activities carried on by the member high schools of South Dakota." If businesslike profit-making is the motivation of the organization, that's unfortunate. The non-businesslike furtherance of opportunities for students should be the primary mission.
But if Carney thinks it's his job to run the SDHSAA like a business, let's consider it.
We say some of the decisions made recently by the SDHSAA just, in the end, don't make business sense. The most recent Class AA girls' basketball tournament is a prime example — so many seats were vacant that we felt embarrassed for the participants.
Had that event been held in the Corn Palace, instead of the cavernous Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City, the crowds would have seemed more suitable for state-tournament play. Meanwhile, in Carney's defense, it's also possible that if the Corn Palace would have hosted the event — instead of the far-off Rushmore Plaza — more people may have showed up, creating seating troubles.
We get it. The SDHSAA wants to line up arenas that are large enough for any contingency. The organization would rather be safe than sorry.
We still feel Mitchell could host a girls' basketball tournament now and then. Boys' tournaments are out of the question, but a girls' tournament isn't unreasonable.
The SDHSAA should consider the Corn Palace for girls' basketball events in the future, using traditional attendance records as their basis. A Daily Republic report earlier this year showed that of 180 total girls' basketball sessions held over the past decade — there are six sessions per tournament — only six of those sessions would have surpassed the Corn Palace's seating capacity.
If the SDHSAA is to be run solely like a business — and again, we don't think that's the right outlook — we acknowledge that difficult decisions must be made. If that means Mitchell is out, we can understand the reasoning.
Meanwhile, we stress that the SDHSAA consider other factors, too, including low attendance figures. If most seats are vacant during a state championship session, then the SDHSAA must think long and hard before awarding a tournament to that site again in the near future.
That, too, is a business decision that should be considered.