Republican Representatives Jacqueline Sly and Dan Dryden of Rapid City take to the Mitchell Daily Republic to flack for Referred Law 16, Governor Dennis Daugaard's really bad bucket of ideology to "reform" K-12 education. They mask their propaganda as seven "facts." These "facts" require some explanation.

Fact 1: The "Critical Needs Scholarship Program" will create 100 scholarships a year for students majoring in education for their junior and senior years who agree to teach in a critical needs teaching field. Critical needs will be determined based upon a survey of local school districts. The scholarships will equate to full tuition and fees at a state university, and recipients will be required to teach in a critical needs field for five years in South Dakota after graduation. The program begins in the 2013-14 school year [Rep. Jacqueline Sly and Rep. Dan Dryden, "Votes on Referred Law 16 should be based on the facts," Mitchell Daily Republic, October 11, 2012].

Sly and Dryden ignore the fact that the scholarships offered will not make up for the earning power new teachers will lose by tying themselves down for five years to South Dakota's lowest-in-the-nation teaching salaries instead of seeking employment in any neighboring state.

Fact 2: The "Math and Science Teacher Incentive Program" will reward the state's best middle school and high school math and science teachers — those who are evaluated as "distinguished" or "proficient" on the state evaluation system — with an annual bonus of $2,500. This program begins in the 2014-15 school year [Sly and Dryden, 2012].

Sly and Dryden fail to justify singling out math and science teachers for these bonuses over the English teachers who teach kids how to read their math and science books, or civics teachers who teach kids how to use their math and science skills as responsible citizens.

Fact 3: The "Top Teacher Rewards Program" allows local school districts to create their own plans to reward teachers based upon student achievement, teacher leadership, or local critical needs. Districts will receive approximately $1,000 per teacher to set up their local plans. Each district can opt out entirely if they choose.

A third option schools can use is the original proposal to give $5,000 bonuses to the top 20 percent of teachers. The program begins in the 2014-15 school year [Sly and Dryden, 2012].

Giving merit pay to the top 20% of teachers is not "a third option"; it is the default policy that RL 16 imposes on every school district in the state. Schools must apply for permission to opt out of this default policy. Schools get to pursue options only if they receive the approval of a bureaucratic panel in Pierre that answers to the Governor.

Fact 4: The law removes the state mandate that requires districts to grant continuing contract to teachers. (It is sometimes called "tenure.") This takes effect on July 1, 2016. Teachers who receive continuing contracts prior to that date will not lose continuing contract status. Local districts will still be allowed to extend continuing contract if they choose, but it will no longer be required by the state [Sly and Dryden, 2012].

The state is taking away from teachers a fundamental protection of due process rights. Indeed, school boards can decide on an individual basis to maintain these due process rights. But Sly, Dryden, and the state are abdicating their obligation to protect good teachers from being fired for bad reasons.

Fact 5: The law creates a new statewide evaluation system for teachers and principals, as one component of the state's new school accountability system. The state is replacing No Child Left Behind with a state-created system that will create student assessments and measure schools on a variety of factors [Sly and Dryden, 2012].

RL 16 takes away local school boards' and administrators' ability to evaluate teachers according to their best knowledge and practice. It replaces that local control with a toxic system in which 50% of a teacher's job rating hinges on standardized tests, which will water down excellence.

Fact 6: Several advisory committees are created to allow for more input from educators as these programs are implemented over the next three school years [Sly and Dryden, 2012].

Reps. Sly, Dryden, and others did not listen to the educators who, along with the general public, overwhelmingly told the Legislature last winter not to pass House Bill 1234, which is now on the ballot as RL 16. We can't trust the Legislature to accord any greater respect to the educators who try to make a stand for evidence-based, effective school policy on the mess of bureaucratic committees called to action by this bad law.

Fact 7: Once fully implemented, these proposals will be funded by the state at a level of $15 million a year, on top of regular formula funding for K-12 education. The money will go directly to the teachers, above and beyond their salary paid by the school district [Sly and Dryden, 2012].

Support for HB 1234 in the Legislature was so tenuous that Republican leaders had to remove all funding from it this year to ensure that it would get enough votes to pass. Sly and Dryden are promising money that they didn't have the guts to appropriate this year and which they cannot guarantee will be appropriated in any coming year. And besides, if we have $15 million to pour into education, we should spend it on policies that research has proven to work, not the ideological fantasies of Rep. Sly, Rep. Dryden, and Governor Daugaard.