When South Dakota Republicans start quoting President Obama to support their own votes, you know they are desperate. I've taken ribbing about the Obama Administration's support for merit pay, a key part of Governor Daugaard's education-wrecking HB 1234, since he mentioned it favorably in the State of the Union address. Rep. David Lust (R-34/Rapid City) put the conservative smirking on the House floor, citing President Obama as a supporter of HB 1234.

Now Rep. Rev. Steve Hickey (R-9/Sioux Falls) invokes Barack Hussein Obama as an expert on South Dakota's K-12 schools:

Obama said, instead of "defending the status quo, let's offer schools a deal" — 1. Incentives to attract and keep good teachers. (Applause.) 2. Reward the best teachers. (Applause.) 3. Grant schools flexibility. (Applause.) 4. Boot the bad teachers. (Applause.)

It's almost spooky how closely those comments parallel HB1234. Furthermore, he acknowledges tight budgets have forced states to cut teacher funding. Yet the narrative here in SD is that the funding was cut because Republicans hate teachers [Rep. Rev. Steve Hickey, "Obama on Ed Reform in SD... Don't Defend the Status Quo," Voices Carry, 2012.03.09].

Frequent blog-flyer LK drops a comment section bomb on Rep. Hickey's "cheap rhetorical trick," pointing that the "logic" of Hickey's argument is akin to saying Republicans have to support ObamaCare because Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney likes RomneyCare.

Permit me the pleasure of tag-teaming with my friend LK:

A. President Obama is perfectly capable of being wrong.

  1. Democrats are perfectly capable of discerning when our leader is wrong and voting accordingly (unlike the Republican legislators who are wearing their arms out carrying the Governor's water).
  2. President Obama, like South Dakota Republicans, offers no evidence of specific problems with South Dakota's K-12 schools.
  3. President Obama's Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is a complete failure.

B. Rep. Hickey is speaking vague generalities about the need for "Change."

  1. Rep. Hickey is avoiding the central question of proving that the status quo really is that bad.
  2. Absent such specifics, Rep. Hickey must be arguing that the status quo is inherently bad and "Change" is inherently good.
  3. Rep. Hickey doesn't really oppose the status quo. He certainly doesn't plan to vote against his District colleagues Sen. Deb Peters and Rep. Bob Deelstra, who have both filed petitions to continue the status quo.
  4. Rep. Hickey most definitely did not embrace "Change" as an inherent good in the 2008 Presidential election.

C. HB 1234 does not grant schools more flexibility.

  1. Schools have more flexibility in the status quo. They can implement local teacher reward plans right now, without HB 1234.
  2. HB 1234 imposes merit pay for the top 20% of teachers as the default policy for all schools. Schools must apply for permission to deviate from that state mandate. That's less flexibility, not more.
  3. Schools can offer merit pay to any and all teachers and disciplines right now. HB 1234 creates mandatory merit pay limited to math and science teachers. That's less flexbility, not more.
  4. Schools have freedom in creating their own evaluation system for teachers and principals right now. HB 1234 creates a standardized statewide evaluations from which schools may not deviate significantly. That's less flexibility, not more.

D. HB 1234 does not offer incentives to attract and keep good teachers.

  1. The Critical Teaching Needs Scholarship Program (CTNSP) is not keyed to any measure of actual teacher quality or student performance.
  2. CTNSP does nothing to incentivize experienced teachers to improve their skills or continue teaching in South Dakota.
  3. CTNSP does not offer college students sufficient scholarship money to make up for the income they will lose by choosing to teach for five years in South Dakota instead of in any adjoining state.

If the best argument that South Dakota Republicans can offer for HB 1234 is that President Obama likes it, this bill will go down 70-30 in November. Let's get it on the ballot!