Referring Governor Daugaard's destructive K-12 education plan to a public vote can't be primarily about counterplans. A referendum can only repeal HB 1234, not replace it with something better. We'll have to count on the new legislators we elect in November (like Pam Merchant and Mike Knudson) to do that.
But when the time comes for counterplans, let me recommend proficiency in one foreign language as a high school graduation requirement. I recommended this idea among my six counterplans to HB 1234 back in January, because I can find more data that foreign language instruction improves student achievement than any legislator was able to offer that anything in HB 1234 would boost student scores.
Add to support for foreign language requirements this essay on how bilingualism makes kids smarter:
The collective evidence from a number of such studies suggests that the bilingual experience improves the brainâ€™s so-called executive function â€” a command system that directs the attention processes that we use for planning, solving problems and performing various other mentally demanding tasks. These processes include ignoring distractions to stay focused, switching attention willfully from one thing to another and holding information in mind â€” like remembering a sequence of directions while driving [Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, "Why Bilinguals Are Smarter," New York Times: Sunday Review, 2012.03.17].
Planning, problem-solving...Â we're not talking filling in bubbles. We're talking serious brain power that will help students who study foreign languages and use them regularly perform better in any class and any job. Plus, they'll stave off Alzheimer's.
We have a spectacular, value-adding education reform staring us right in the face: rigorous K-12 foreign language education. Take that $15,000,000 Governor Daugaard wants to throw away on ineffective merit pay, hire two new foreign language teachers for every school district in South Dakota, and start teaching every kindergartner how to communicate in something other than English. Teach that language and use it in the classroom every year until that child graduates, and I will show you higher test scores and much, much more.