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South Dakota Editorial Roundup

Students and parents should expect more for their money

There's a serious and troubling disconnect in America today: Graduating from high school does not mean you are ready to take freshmen classes in college, especially English and math.

More than a million U.S. college freshmen take remedial courses every year -- about 60 percent of freshmen at two-year colleges, and 20 to 30 percent at four-year colleges.

Surprisingly, there's little if any public outcry about it. Instead, at least on the national level, high schools pat themselves on the back about the high percentages of students heading to college and colleges blame high schools for not better preparing students -- but don't partner with high schools to align the courses.

South Dakotans currently spend roughly $60,000 to educate a child in the public K-12 system. However, one in four members of the graduating class of 2007-08 in South Dakota who enrolled at a state public university needed at least one remedial course before tackling a college class.

Why aren't South Dakota students and their parents -- in fact all taxpayers who pay the bill for public education -- demanding more for their money?

There's plenty of blame to go around. It starts with students who opt for the basic curriculum that is less challenging in math and science to university admission standards (and parents) that let them get away with it. It includes a lack of coordination between the state Board of Education, which oversees K-12 education and sets graduation requirements, and the South Dakota Board of Regents, purveyor of higher education that sets college entrance requirements.

It's time that the Board of Education and the Board of Regents work together to achieve that goal, not by dumbing down curriculum, but by making sure that high school graduation and a college acceptance letter really do have something in common.

Aberdeen American News

U.S. spending habits must be brought under control

A quick search on the Internet will lead you to something called the U.S. National Debt Clock. Using information obtained from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the debt clock shows the total national debt at that point. When we last checked, the national debt figure was 14 numerals long -- $11,910,166,767,032 -- and that doesn't count the two numbers to the right of the decimal point. If, somehow, the total bill became due right now and each person in the United States was required to pay an equal amount to settle it, we'd each have to pay $38,772.84.

Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., and Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D, are recommending creating a commission that would force Congress and the president to tighten their belts and control spending. They're recommending a 16-member commission that would come up with a bipartisan plan to keep the country from drowning in debt. That plan would then be submitted to Congress for a mandatory up-or-down vote.

The commission would have eight Democrats and eight Republicans, but it would require 12 votes to agree upon a plan. It would also take 60 percent margins to pass the House and Senate. For the plan to work, Gregg and Conrad say, everything would have to be on the table and that includes Social Security, Medicare and revenues. Social Security and Medicare are sacred cows and difficult to touch.

Whether the Gregg/Conrad approach works, or some other method is needed to control federal spending, the national debt clock will continue to increase until long-entrenched spending habits are brought under control. And as history -- and the debt clock -- has shown us, that's a tough habit to break.

Watertown Public Opinion