Governor Dennis Daugaard likes to view himself as the state's top cheerleader. Everything in South Dakota is awesome, the Governor will say... at least when he's trying to recruit corporations to come prey on our workers and build his donor base.
But bring up our public schools, and Governor Daugaard puts away the pom-poms and says private schools are better:
In an interview last week with 100 Eyes Daugaard said: "You can't say that you won't obtain quality without high compensation. I was just at O'Gorman (High School). The teachers at O'Gorman are paid, as a group, less than the Sioux Falls School District. Their students achieve better" [Patrick Anderson, "Daugaard's Teacher Pay Comments Spark Response from Educators," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.10.27].
Them's fightin' words for Lennox teacher and debate coach Michael Larson, who recognizes the willful ignorance and deceit in Governor Daugaard's bogus comparison of public apples and private oranges:
The ignorance that Daugaard shows is that he thinks that the population at a private school like O'Gorman is the same as the population at Sioux Falls Washington.
At the private school that I taught many years ago, there was no special education department. We didn't have IEPs. Students whose needs that could not be met went to the public school in the town. These students came from mostly stable homes. The majority of them would be considered middle class families or high income families. The overwhelming majority of the students were Caucasian. That could not be said for the public school in Storm Lake, Iowa. It is ridiculous to even think that the challenges faced by teachers in that school were the same as the ones I faced in the private school [Michael Larson, "Only Daugaard Could Pull Me Back In," Taking a Left Turn in South Dakota, 2014.10.27].
The South Dakota School Superintendents' Association responds a bit more gently, pointing out that better wages for teachers, just like better wages in other fields, allow us to compete for higher-quality applicants:
We agree that the goal of education is student achievement, not expenditure. However, as research clearly shows, the role of the teacher is crucial to high student achievement, and, if we want higher student achievement, we need to expend a little more to recruit and retain more quality teachers. As with other areas of workforce development in our state, low wages have impacted the number of available workers in general, and specifically, a shortage of teachers in our schools.
We agree that compensation does attract quality. As with all workforce development, on average, higher wages tend to attract a higher quality of worker—see healthcare, corporate America, Main Street South Dakota, and education. We recognize that internal motivation, a positive workplace environment, job satisfaction, and being appreciated for the job one does, all add to an entities’ ability to attract quality employees, but we all understand that higher wages attract quality candidates [Dan Leikvold, South Dakota School Superintendents Association, open letter, 2014.10.27].
Governor Daugaard, you know full well that public schools labor under very different circumstances from private schools. They have a different mission and require more inputs to achieve that mission. And you know full well that higher wages attract a larger pool of better-qualified candidates. Picking up the pom-poms and honestly cheering our public schools for once would be nice. But picking up your pen and writing a better budget for K-12 education would bring even more cheer.89 comments