Recent Op-Eds

As I traveled throughout South Dakota during the month of October, I've had the privilege of visiting several schools to speak with students of all ages and their teachers. Wherever I go, I am impressed by the dedication our of state's teachers and administrators.

My father was a teacher and my mother was the school librarian in Murdo, so I know first-hand the sacrifices that teachers can make to help their students learn. Teachers frequently spend extra hours in the classroom to help students succeed, and many teachers use their time outside of the classroom to support student activities and be positive forces in their communities.

In October, Congress passed legislation, with my support, to make it easier for teachers to improve the classroom experience of their students. Because of sometimes limited school resources, many teachers use their own money to purchase classroom supplies and teaching aids, and thankfully, Congress extended the tax provision that allows teachers to deduct up to $250 of classroom expenses from their federal income taxes. This particular provision, which expired at the end of 2007, will be available for teachers to utilize in both the 2008 and 2009 tax years.

This same legislation also reauthorizes the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act, which provides important funding to several South Dakota school districts and counties where federal land ownership reduces revenues that would otherwise be collected in property taxes.

I am always impressed by the caliber of South Dakota's students that I meet during school visits. The South Dakota Department of Education recently announced that South Dakota's average score for the ACT college entrance exam reached 22.0 in 2008, which represents a third consecutive year of improvement. I applaud our students and educators for the progress they continue to make and I will continue to work with teachers, administrators, and parents to craft policies that give local schools the flexibility and resources to best meet the needs of our students.

As the son of teachers and the parent of two children who attended public schools, I have seen first-hand the commitment and sacrifices made by teachers for the betterment of students. I hope all South Dakotans join me in applauding the great work that is being done in our schools today.