[Yup, I screwed up my reading of HB 1166 in my first post. Let's try again!]
Mr. Montgomery notes the eerie cries in Pierre of the ghosts of HB 1234, the mostly bad ideas for education reform that Governor Daugaard tried to force on our public schools last year. I've already warned the anti-teacher GOP to back off their destructive plan to take away what little due process experienced teachers have with continuing contract rights.
The newly filed Senate Bill 233 resurrects the Critical Teaching Needs Scholarship Program. Just like the provision in last year's HB 1234, this new bill offers university students free tuition for their last two years of school if they will promise to stay in South Dakota for five years to teach in fields where we are short of teachers (like French, right?!). SB 233 has good intentions, but it still ignores the math that the smartest prospective teachers will do to realize that signing up for this scholarship is a bad financial move.
And among the rusty chains of HB 1234 that our legislators are shaking, we find a new spin on merit pay. Last year, the Governor wanted to give bonuses to an arbitrarily chosen top 20% of teachers. This year, legislators are considering House Bill 1166, which would send extra money to school districts that are meeting one metric of quality education. Specifically, HB 1166 identifies the 10% of schools with the lowest rates of graduates requiring college remedial classes and gives every teacher in those schools bonuses. In a noteworthy deviation from last year's merit pay scheme, HB 1166 appropriates real money for the bonuses, one million dollars.
Ignored in this formula is any measure of how well a school district prepares students who aren't headed for college. Ignored in this formula is how well a school does meeting the many demands of special education. Ignored in this formula is any attempt to determine the holistic quality of education offered, the different efforts made by different teachers, and the different abilities of each class of students. Ignored in this formula is the fact that, once we've assessed which kids needed remedial classes at college, some of their old high school teachers may already have retired or moved to other districts, meaning new teachers who had nothing to do with teaching those students or creating the successful culture in which those students thrived will get bonuses just for showing up.
Take away teachers' only due process rights. Offer scholarships too cheap to make up for the applicants' lost income. Throw bonuses at schools based on one metric, with no clear analysis of the people or conditions responsible for that one metric. Sometimes I wonder if anyone in the Legislature really understands education... or, given the passage of the school-gunslinger bill in the House this afternoon, over the objection of experts in education and security, whether the Legislature would really rather do harm to our public K-12 education system.