Rapid City Journal. July 1, 2012
Governor should follow health care law
Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has found the federal health care law constitutional, now what?
South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard said he was disappointed with the decision and would not act to implement provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act until after the November election, when President Obama faces re-election.
"We don't intend to implement any part of this legislation this year," Daugaard said. "My hope is the new people in Washington will repeal this legislation. It's something I don't believe this nation can afford, and I don't believe it's something the state can afford."
Daugaard said state officials will study the law and act to "minimize the damage" the law could do to the state's health care and insurance industries.
For the time being, Daugaard said he would not establish insurance exchanges that will allow individuals and small businesses to purchase health insurance that the federal law mandates. South Dakota has received $5.8 million from the federal government to create the insurance pools.
We believe the governor is making a mistake by not creating the health insurance exchanges that are required by the law and delaying action until after the November election.
The presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he would repeal the federal health care law if he is elected president, and the Republican Governors Association has urged its members, including Daugaard, to delay implementing the law.
Our biggest complaint about the law is how partisan the debate over the issue of health care has become since the law's passage. Congress passed the Affordable Care Act without a single Republican vote, largely because Democrats shut their GOP colleagues out of creating the legislation.
The recent Supreme Court decision was based on a challenge that included 26 states, including South Dakota, headed by Republican governors and attorneys general.
Reaction to the decision fell largely on party lines: Democrats cheered the ruling, while Republicans were dismayed.
Daugaard's decision not to implement the federal health care law adds to the partisanship that is making it difficult to solve the nation's soaring health care costs and lack of access to affordable care.
We also believe that, before the November election, the Obama administration will accelerate adopting more of the Affordable Care Act's provisions — many of which have yet to be written — that may require state cooperation, or the federal government will act without state participation. What results may not be to South Dakota's liking.
In our view, the governor should go ahead and create the insurance exchange in anticipation of Obama's re-election or a possible Republican free-market alternative.
In November, the American people will decide between Obama and Romney based, in part, on their opposing visions for health care. Until then, Daugaard should put partisanship aside and act to improve access to affordable health care for all South Dakotans.
Argus Leader, Sioux Falls. June 30, 2012
Yearlong teacher training worth support
Hands-on is often the most effective way to learn.
It makes some sense then that those learning to be teachers would benefit from additional time in the classroom before graduating and taking their first teaching jobs. If assorted details and hurdles can be overcome, South Dakota likely will see more teacher candidates teaching for longer amounts of time before they are hired as certified educators.
Last year, 10 college seniors co-taught in Sioux Falls elementary schools in the first year of a grant-funded pilot program aimed at increasing their experience in the classroom beyond the traditional partial-year student teaching. When it was over, educators liked it, and seven of the 10 were hired for first-year jobs in the Sioux Falls district.
The effort is a recognition that the setting in which teachers learn should change from the college classroom to the elementary, middle and high school classrooms. Being an educator in today's technical world with increasingly complex standards and measurements can be a challenge. A number of teachers quit the profession within the first five years. In addition to preparing and actually teaching a classroom of children, teachers also face more and more black and white measurements of whether they are doing their jobs effectively.
Despite all of the stresses, many educators love teaching. They are fulfilled, and they are good at it. Strong classroom preparation can help more young teachers build their confidence and skills.
In general, the yearlong hands-on training makes sense. But those who run education programs at our universities and those who hire new teachers should put their heads together and think of ways to overcome some road-blocks.
Like other great ideas in our state, this switch in training needs money. If it's a good program, we need to pay for it. Students who spend their days working deserve compensation in addition to experience. Time in the classroom often means they don't have time to work other jobs, yet they still have the expenses of paying for their college credits.
It might take creative thinking, but educators need to come up with a way to compensate the student teachers. Lower costs for those credits? A stipend? Outside financial support through grants or corporate backing?
While the Board of Regents hasn't taken action on any proposal that has potential teachers spending three years on campus and one in a school district classroom, the concept seems worthy. We urge the university system to work out the details.
Watertown Public Opinion. July 5, 2012
Living with the heat
Man, is it hot out there.
If you haven't said or heard that in the past week or so, chances are you've been inside with little or no contact with those who have ventured out into the heat. Temperatures like we've been experiencing are not unusual during the summer, but they are unusual this early. Generally, sustained temps in the 90s and 100s happen later in July or in August.
So what's the deal?
Since at least 1988, scientists have warned that climate change would bring, in general, increased heat waves, more droughts, more sudden downpours, more widespread wildfires and worsening storms. In the United States, those extremes have been happening for several weeks. More than 2.1 million acres have burned in wildfires, more than 113 million people in the U.S. were recently in areas under extreme heat advisories, two-thirds of the country is experiencing drought, and earlier in June, deluges flooded Minnesota, Florida and other states.
Does that mean we are in the grips of a climate change? Does it mean global warming is a reality? Or is it just a variable freak thing that happens from time to time at the whim of Mother Nature?
We don't know and at this point it doesn't really matter. What does matter is that we're in a lot better shape than many other parts of the country to cope with weather swings like we've been experiencing. Yes, there are times during blizzards and other storms where people in rural areas can lose power for several days due to downed lines but that's more the exception than the rule. And when lines do go down, utility crews from different communities and REAs pitch in as needed to get them restored as quickly as possible because they're not dealing with the numbers heavily populated areas are. And as we've found out all too often, most notably last summer, flooding can happen at any time. But with volunteers, the National Guard and coordinated response efforts by state and local governments we manage to get through those situations far better than most. The same applies with wildfires, grass fires and other blazes. Thanks to local firefighting crews with assistance from neighboring communities when needed, fires are usually brought under control without the widespread damage we're now seeing in Colorado and other states.
So, yeah, it's hot out there and likely to stay that way for a while. But when it comes to coping with it, and other weather related problems, we're better off than many other parts of the country. You can thank our geography, our more manageable population base, volunteers and the people running state and local governments and the electrical power supply for helping make that possible.