Abbott discusses education plans at Brookings eatery

Toby Uecker

Toby Uecker

Brookings residents spent part of Sunday afternoon discussing the pressing issues of the 2002 election with one of its key figures.

Gubernatorial candidate Jim Abbott met with residents at Cafe Ruby and the Bake Shoppe to talk education, criminal justice and other issues over pie and coffee.

“I really think this state has the opportunity in the next few years to make some major changes,” Abbott told the crowd.

The changes Abbott spent the most time discussing with the college town crowd dealt with education. The Democrat discussed plans for K-12 funding as well as for future cooperation among the state’s regential universities.

“Our … universities, in terms of education have a lot more in common than we do opposite,” he said.

Abbott is the president of USD and is taking time off from that position for the campaign. He proposes further cooperation between the institutions in the state to create research parks and outreach such as that between SDSU and Daktronics.

Abbott also took issue with the higher education ideas advanced by his chief opponent, Republican Mike Rounds.

Rounds advocates forgiveness of college loans for South Dakota students that attend institutions in the state and agree to stay in the state for work. While Abbott agreed that he did not want to send students out of the state for college and careers, he emphasized the need to solve the K-12 education issues first.

Abbott said he is well aware of both the concerns of K-12 parents and educators and the concerns of those paying taxes to fund education.

“We have to get more money for K-12, and we can’t take it off the backs of property taxpayers,” he said.

Abbott also came out in direct opposition to the so-called gag law, a piece of legislation sponsored by Rounds during his time in the state legislature.

Among other issues, the candidate discussed the need for adequate health care in the state and what he described as the disproportionate number of South Dakotans incarcerated in the state’s prisons.

Overall, Abbott said he hoped to get his message out in the last days of the election.

“I didn’t run this race to lose. I’m talking about the issues that make a great deal of difference,” he said.