Some Democrats contend that candidate Fred Deutsch is a suboptimal choice for District 4 House because he has previously floated the idea of consolidating more schools to ease state budget pressures. Deutsch, to the chagrin of some who are willing to have that honest policy discussion, says he was just poking the Legislature and isn't out to close schools.

He also says a bunch of Democrats who know him think he'd be a great State Representative:

Fred Deutsch District 4 House campaign postcard, 2012

Fred Deutsch District 4 House campaign postcard (front) 2012

Bill Zubke? Scott and Tricia Walker? Rich Mittelstedt? Kris and Steve O'Brien? Hey, I know those people! Steve even drops by and says sensible things here on the blog.

A number of those sensible Democratic teachers live in Watertown in District 5, so they don't have to actually mark Fred's name on the ballot. But they've worked with Fred as one of their Watertown school board members. They know whereof they speak, and they would not urge District 4 folks to vote for someone who advocates bad education policy.

Of course, with all these Democrats endorsing him, Deutsch is probably putting himself squarely in the sights of all the RINO-hunters. But hey: I'd rather have the Zubkes, Walkers, Mittelstedts, and O'Briens on my side than the Sibsons, Howies, and Lautenschlagers.

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District 4 House candidate Fred Deutsch is torqued:

Remember the post I put up a few days ago about the other two Republicans running in District 4 receiving smut-mail (Tim Begalka and Jim Gilkerson) and saying I anticipate it is only a matter of time until you receive smut-mail about me too? Well, today it happened. The smut-mail arrived. Complete fabrications and lies. The piece attempts to create fear that I have an agenda to close small schools -- the truth is 100% the opposite. The truth is -- I am 'already' talking to superintendents, school board members and teachers from across District 4 on how we can enrich and strengthen our small schools. The truth is -- I am already working with education advocates across the political spectrum (including democrats), yet this piece and the two for Begalka and Gilkerson all show a return address of the SD Democratic Party. This is so sad [Fred Deutsch, Facebook post, October 30, 2012].

Smut-mail? Fred Deutsch shirtless and in his bike shirts? Hubba hubba!

Alas, no such thrills. Deutsch is simply facing the publication of evidence that he supports small-school consolidation. According to two of my sources, Fred Deutsch sent the following missive to the Legislature in February 2011:

I'm out the door to Washington to visit with our congressional delegation about federal education issues, but wanted to drop you a note before I go. The governor has said it's better to take our budgetary medicine all in one year rather than suffer the death of a thousand cuts. Perhaps it would be helpful if that same philosophy was taken toward education. To me, it seems the education bills working through the system this year are like a thousand cuts &ndash they are just prolonging the suffering. My take: the problem isn't that we don't have enough revenue; the problem is we have too many school districts. The number of schools our state maintains is a luxury from an era that no longer exists. If the governor and the legislature can summon the political will to reduce educational funding by 10%, surely, somehow, someway, our legislature can find the political will to reduce the number of districts to a number we can afford to adequately fund. Until you do that, it's death by a thousand cuts. With greatest respect for your difficult decisions and your commitment to our people, I remain, most sincerely,

Fred Deutsch
Watertown School Board Member

Hmm... if someone says Fred Deutsch favors consolidating small schools, that doesn't sound like a complete fabrication. It sounds like a simple restatement of his own words.

It may also be a policy discussion worth having. Do we overstretch our dollars by maintaining too many school buildings and school districts? Does South Dakota have a fiscal obligation to pull back, let some small schools and small communities die, and concentrate its resources on larger communities?

I'm open to that discussion. However, Deutsch's coveted District 4 voters in Florence, Henry, Clear Lake, Revillo, Waverly, South Shore, Big Stone City, Toronto, White, Volga, and Elkton may not.

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Fred Deutsch, former Watertown school board member and current Republican candidate for District 4 House, drops by the Madville Times to offer a bad news/good news update on his campaign. Deutsch says the South Dakota Education Association has not endorsed him. But, says, Deutsch, SDEA didn't endorse anyone else for District 4 House, either. Why no SDEA endorsement for the obvious choices for shaking up the anti-education Republcian majority, Democrats Kathy Tyler and Jim Peterson, or the other Republican, Jim Gilkerson?

The good news was the interviews were so good they couldn't decide who to endorse and opted not to endorse anyone. Maybe an easy way out of a tough choice for SDEA, but as I was told "consider it a feather in your cap as a Republican." I am hopeful I can work both within the caucus and across the aisle to develop well-supported and meaningful education legislation [Fred Deutsch, comment at 18:17, Madville Times, October 5, 2012].

One reason Deutsch was able to stave off an SDEA endorsement of his Democratic challengers was his willingness to oppose Referred Law 16, the Governor's really bad education "reform" plan. I asked Deutsch to clarify his position on the bill, and he graciously replied:

...frankly, some aspects of the bill I liked; others, however, I thought were counter-productive for our state. Taken as a whole, the negatives of the bill out-weight the benefits, IMO. I believe we can do better and I plan to vote no on RL 16. If elected, I'll work to pass a better, more meaningful and common-sense education improvement bill [Fred Deutsch, comment at 18:07, Madville Times, October 5, 2012].

There you go: at least three Republicans (also Rep. Jim Bolin, Rep. Stace Nelson... any others*?) on the November ballot telling you to vote No on Referred Law 16. Russ Olson, care to catch the wave and abandon a policy doomed to fail?

Of course, Kathy Tyler is even more frank in her rejection of Referred Law 16 (a.k.a. House Bill 1234):

This year the governor told schools they were spending too much money and not doing a good enough job. And then came HB1234—a bill to fix lagging test scores. The bill created a scholarship program; gave $2500 to math and science teachers; established merit pay criteria for teachers; established uniform staff evaluation procedures; and removed continuing contract. It does sound like a pretty good deal, except there is very little local control; research shows merit pay does not work; math and science teachers aren't the only teachers deserving bonus pay; teachers really don't want to have to worry about if they've hurt someone's feelings and are going to lose their jobs; and many schools have already excellent evaluation systems.

But in all of that, not one cent was allocated to restore funding cuts to education. State law requires educational funding to be increased by 3% per year or the rate of inflation,whichever is less. South Dakota has not followed that mandate for the past three years.

Here's what I see should be done by the Legislature:

  1. Put education first. Restore all monies to the education funding formula so we can get our counselors, teachers, and programs back.
  2. Remove one time funding—categorical aid as it's known. Districts need a consistent funding source so budgeting can be done adequately. Fund the formula; don't give us leftovers.
  3. The Charlotte Danielson evaluation model that the state is requiring demands more time from administrators; be sure it's funded properly.
  4. Evaluate teacher preparation programs at state colleges to be sure they are adequately preparing students for the classroom.
  5. Establish a teacher mentoring program to be sure that first and second year teachers succeed in their new profession.
  6. Create a bipartisan educational task force to look at South Dakota's educational system, including funding. If we want good schools and teachers, we must be willing to pay for them [Kathy Tyler, "Thoughts on Education in South Dakota," campaign website, July 16, 2012].

Elsewhere on the same page, Tyler says she's "I'm totally against HB1234 and the way schools and teachers have been treated the past three legislative sessions is horrendous."

Tyler rejects RL16, which SDEA put on the ballot, without qualification. Tyler proposes clear policy alternatives that align with what SDEA fought for during the 2012 Legislative session. Tyler makes clear her disgust with Pierre's ill treatment of teachers and schools and promises to fight for SDEA's constituents. If SDEA is hearing anything of comparable passion from Deutsch, Peterson, or Gilkerson, I'd like to see it. Absent that, Tyler clearly deserves SDEA's endorsement. She has mine!

*Update 11:40 MDT: The three Republicans I named above—Deutsch, Bolin, and Nelson—have said on the record that they are voting against Referred Law 16 this fall. Other Republicans voted against HB 1234 last winter (see final Senate and House roll calls): how many of them are on the record saying they'll vote against it again on the November ballot? I welcome links to public statements to that effect below!

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We know who's not; now, who's hot on YouTube? Out of 112 Legislative candidates videos who recorded YouTube pitches for SDPB, here are the ten who got the most views as of Sunday, September 30, at 00:00 MDT:

1. Rep. Stace Nelson, Republican, District 19 House (605 views): Rep. Nelson proves that YouTube popularity is not driven solely by beauty. Pay attention, GOP: Nelson may know better than any of you how to use social media to get his message out and organize.

2. Christine Erickson, Republican, District 11 House (486 views): Erickson is one of only two women in the top ten... but 20% is also the percentage of female candidates in the SDPB video pool. Possibly boosting Erickson's numbers: Colts fans Googling her brother Adam Vinatieri! Possibly decreasing her vote total: proudly touting her work as a "revenue agent" for state government. Aren't those the same bad characters who used to chase Uncle Jesse and J.D. Hogg around the backwoods?

3. Chris Studer, Democrat, District 22 Senate (374 views): TV experience helps; so does the red necktie!

4. Rep. Jon Hansen, Republican, District 25 House (322 views): I maintain Hansen's getting most of his juice from his Christian slater impression.

5. Mark Mickelson**, Republican, District 13 House (251 views): Mickelson and District 13 GOP teammate Steve Westra appear to have coordinated outfits.

6. Mike Knudson, Democrat, District 12 House (242 views): One well-known son of a Republican (hey, I'm not cussing them out!) follows another, though unlike George Mickelson's son, Mike Knudson has bolted from his dad's party.

7. Sen. Angie Buhl, Democrat, District 15 Senate (233 views): Everybody touts small-business cred, even the bluest Dem in Pierre!

8. Sam Khoroosi, Democrat, District 13 Senate (219 views): Another blue shirt in District 13!

9. Fred Deutsch, Republican, District 4 House (217 views): The only Fred on the Legislative ballot* starts this video with the happiest face on SDPB. Look at that smile, that dynamic face, that bouncy hand! He's totally into it! I still want Kathy Tyler and Jim Peterson to beat him, but as a speech guy (and a fellow bicycle dude), I have to admit, Fred's fun to watch.

10. Zachary Anderson, Democrat, District 3 House (213 views): Possibly the youngest candidate on the Legislative ballot (he's 21), Anderson rounds out a top ten dominated by young candidates. Click on their YouTube stats (the little bar-chart icon to the right, just below each video on its YouTube page), and you'll see these young folks appear to be a bit more adept at promoting their videos on Facebook.

Just missing the cut are District 3 Republican Dan Kaiser (210) and District 2 Democrat Chuck Welke (200), the only other two candidates crossing the 200-view threshold as of last night's count.

*Fred note! The only other Fred anywhere in South Dakota on the November ballot is Sheriff Fred Koester of Murdo, who is running to keep his job in Haakon County against William Morrisson of Rapid City. Neither candidate has a video on YouTube to discuss the state of law enforcement between Philip, Midland, and the Cheyenne River. That's a shame... because we all know the world needs more Fred videos:

That funky tune you hear near Fulton is YouTube star Stace humming this song.

**Update 19:05 MDT: Since Democrats Susy Blake and Jesse Vavreck both dropped out of the District 13 race in August, Westra and his GOP colleague Mark Mickelson face no challengers on the November ballot. Thus, everybody else moves up one notch, and we promote District 3's Dan Kaiser to #10 on the list of contesting candidates getting YouTube views! Way to go, Dan! Hand that man a sandwich!

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Last week District 4 House candidate Fred Deutsch posted this Facebook message about his campaign:

The first thing I did after announcing I'm a candidate was to form a prayer team, asking for God's guidance in the campaign and that He would keep me and my family safe. I invite you to please join us [Fred Deutsch, Facebook status, 2012.05.26 09:20 CDT].

RCJ reporter Kevin Woster responded thus:

I don't suffer Mr. Woster's angst (must be all that professional journalism; Woster clearly needs to get outside more). But I also don't share the worldview that motivates Mr. Deutsch to prioritize forming a prayer team, not to mention publicizing that pious act, as essential campaign strategy.

However, let me restrain my snark and ask two honest questions:

  1. What value can a prayer team add to a political campaign that a typical secular group of advisors can not?
  2. (Perhaps just reformulating the first question): If you form a campaign prayer team, how do you distinguish the political "guidance" you think God is giving you from the good ideas (or for that matter, the bad ideas) that pop into your and your advisors' heads as a result of their own earthly cogitation?

I welcome the civil responses of believers and non-believers alike.

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District 4 House candidate Fred Deutsch announced earlier this month that he is one of three school board members appointed to the South Dakota Education Reform Advisory Council. That committee is one of six work groups created by Governor Dennis Daugaard's deservedly much-maligned HB 1234. Josh Verges supremely summarizes SDERAC's purpose:

Tell the Legislature how they screwed up in HB1234 and further examine education reform issues including teacher compensation; recruiting, retaining and training teachers; and other ideas for improving student achievement [Josh Verges, "Wanted: 93 People for Education Boards, Work Groups, and Advisory Councils," Not District Dialogue, 2012.03.05].

One might think that Deutsch, a loyal Republican, was selected for this committee (and that I was not, despite my clear qualifications as a teacher rep) specifically because he would not put anything on the record suggesting that his patron appointers, Sen. Bob Gray and District 4 neighbor Rep. Val Rausch, screwed up in foisting evidenceless state mandates on our K-12 schools. But recall what Deutsch said on this blog in February while the debate on HB 1234 raged in Pierre:

As good intentioned as the bill is (to raise academic achievement) we have real concerns it will undermine the foundations of our collaborate success and lead to the opposite of what's desired. I have no doubt some schools could benefit from HB1234, but not [Watertown]. It would make creating environments of academic success more difficult [Fred Deutsch, blog comment, Madville Times, 2012.02.24].

...and elsewhere...

My feeling is instead of increase academic achievement, which is what we're all trying to accomplish, it's [HB 1234] going to cause significant disruption and lead to just the opposite [Fred Deutsch, quoted in The Antidote, 2012.02.21]

Rev. Rep. Steve Hickey wants to believe that chiropractors like Deutsch can straighten out the Legislature. I'll settle for Deutsch straightening out the Governor and his minions on HB 1234.

p.s.: Deutsch is the only person I can find publicly named as a member of SDERAC. I know one other board member who won't yet publicly confirm membership. The rest are mysteries. We have the names of the appointees to three of the six HB 1234 committees; where's the SDERAC roster?

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Rep. Steve Hickey observed on Facebook that during Thursday's committee hearing, HB 1234, Governor Dennis Daugaard's package of education reforms, "was referred to as a botched meatloaf. Nothing they add would make anyone want to eat it."

According to yesterday's poll by that Sioux Falls paper, not many South Dakotans want a taste of that meatloaf:

Online poll on HB 1234, Daugaard's education reform package, 2012.02.2487.7% disapproval. Review the poll archive, and you'll find the Governor's education ideas are less popular than the Oglala Sioux Tribe's lawsuit against Budweiser. 87.7% is a larger percentage than those who support Rep. Deelstra's sensible county cremation bill (which passed unanimously! Nice work, Bob!) That's a larger percentage than those who think changing the state flag is unnecessary. That's larger percentage than the Republican supermajority in the State Senate.

87.7% disapproval. Flip to the 12.3% approval, and you find Governor Daugaard's education proposals are just slightly more popular than Congress. As John Thune and Kristi Noem keep reminding us, that kind of approval rating means your support is down to blood relatives and paid staffers (which in Pierre is pretty much the same thing, right?).

The number who voted in yesterday's online poll, 1387, was more than double the average turnout for that Sioux Falls paper's polls. A lot of people give a darn about HB 1234, and darn few want it to pass.

My petition asking the Legislature to chuck HB 1234 and convene a task force to study education now has gathered 2200 signatures in nine days. Please realize, that's more signatures than I would need to run for Congress in South Dakota... as a Republican.

One of Rep. Hickey's Facebook friends says that "if the education lobby is against it, it must be a good bill for the taxpayer." Yet Rep. Hickey himself is among fourteen Republican legislators expressing everything from reservations about to outright opposition to HB 1234.

Well-known Republican, school board member, and District 4 House candidate Fred Deutsch doesn't want to eat Governor Daugaard's meatloaf, either:

As good intentioned as the bill is (to raise academic achievement) we have real concerns it will undermine the foundations of our collaborate success and lead to the opposite of what's desired. I have no doubt some schools could benefit from HB1234, but not [Watertown]. It would make creating environments of academic success more difficult [Fred Deutsch, blog comment, Madville Times, 2012.02.24].

Almost nobody likes HB 1234. Legislators keep dropping the meatloaf on the floor, then throwing the same stale, crummy bits back in the pan with more lint from the floor and generic ketchup on top.

Don't serve this garbage to your kids. Hit the crackerbarrels today, tell your legislators to throw HB 1234 out... and then let's get together this summer to grill up some real solutions!

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District 4 is hopping with candidates! The newly drawn district includes all of Grant and Deuel counties, then oozes around Watertown and Brookings to include the rest of Codington and Brookings counties. Two candidates have already filed their petitions for State House: James Gilkerson of rural Brookings and my current fave Kathy Tyler from Milbank. Tyler gets extra points for being the first Democrat to file for the 2012 race for Legislature.

Also joining the race for District 4 House is arch-conservative Republican Fred Deutsch of Florence. Deutsch showed some blog chops while serving on the Watertown school board (and he is still VP of that august local body). He's not afraid to throw punches... and he's not afraid to take those punches back and apologize when he realizes he's wrong. I don't know Gilkerson well enough to comment yet, but a tussle between Deutsch and Milbank school board VP Tyler should provide great policy fun.

Now we just wait to see if term-limited Speaker of the House Val Rausch will challenge Senator Tim Begalka for his Senate seat. Nummy nummy....

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