I'd love to see the state and the education establishment abandon Common Core and similar exercises in faux-accountability and paperwork. But that won't happen with opponents claiming that Common Core kills Indian kids:

We’ve buried eight kids down on that reservation in the last week. We need to sit up and pay attention. I’m not naive enough to think the Common Core is the… is what’s causing all of this, but it’s part of the effect. We’ve got teachers down there who have just quit teaching it, because the kids can't do it [Rep. Elizabeth May (R-27/Pine Ridge), remarks on House Bill 1223, South Dakota House, 2015.02.24, timestamp 21:12].

At this point, Speaker Dean Wink (R-29/Howes) interrupted Rep. May to pull her back to the motion at hand, which was not the Common Core-repealing House Bill 1223 itself but the question of whether to place HB 1223 on the calendar for debate. Even if the House had allowed that debate to happen, the suggestion that Common Core leads to Indian youth suicide sounds more like a high school debate nuke-war disad (the classic argument that demonstrates that any federal policy change leads to mushroom clouds) than a useful legislative contention.

Suicide is a serious problem for our Native neighbors. The Pine Ridge Reservation has had waves of youth suicides since well before the adoption of Common Core. Dr. Delphine Red Shirt says the despair driving these suicides comes from the culture of fear imposed imposed by colonialism. Maybe we could make the argument that imposing Western rationalist curriculum standards on Indian reservations is one aspect of colonialism. But with the Department of Education warning that repealing Common Core would only require implementing new (Western rationalist) standards, and with Common Core opponents suggesting new standards, the colonialism critique doesn't get us anywhere on HB 1223.

But Rep. May wasn't making that deep critique. She seems to have been colonializing her Indian neighbors again, exploiting their pain to advance her political goal of the moment. This one ill-considered rhetorical tactic only weakened her position, opening education policy critics to ridicule from the national press, which lump her suicide claim in with other wild accusations made by Common Core opponents.

The Huffington Post lets Rep. May try to explain herself:

May clarified her comments for The Huffington Post, noting that, “Our suicide rate keeps increasing on the [Pine Ridge] reservation, our kids are under a lot of distress socially and economically.”

Indeed, the suicide rates of Native youth are disproportionately high around the country.

May further said she thinks the Common Core State Standards put too much emphasis on standardized testing.

“Very simple, testing, testing testing. They have to teach to the test. You know and I know and every teacher in the trenches on the reservation know it,” wrote May in an email. “It never is about children and teachers it's about a bureaucracy.”

“There’s kids who just won't go to school," she added over the phone. "This is not even just about Indian children, but about all of our children. We see it more in the depressed areas of our country. Not all children learn the same. We can't put everybody inside a box, it doesn’t work."

The Common Core State Standards do not necessarily increase amounts of standardized testing, but tests aligned with the standards have been noted for their rigor [Rebecca Klein, "South Dakota Legislator Suggests Common Core Contributed To Kids' Deaths," Huffington Post, 2015.02.27].

We can dismantle Rep. May's elaboration on straight logic:

  1. "Our suicide rate keeps increasing" indicates the problem has arisen from and will continue as a result of other factors. HB 1223 would not have solved.
  2. "too much emphasis on standardized testing" has been a critique of every standards movement (remember No Child Left Behind?). HB 1223 would have left the testing regime in place.
  3. "This is not even just about Indian children, but about all of our children"—then why did Rep. May's remarks on the House floor Tuesday talk about suicide among Indian children? Is there a spate of white youth suicides induced by Common Core that Rep. May left unmentioned? This comment sounds like Rep. May realizing she'd made a weak claim and trying to move the debate to a different topic.

We could beat back Common Core and other centralized intrusions on the art of good teaching with better, more practical arguments. Claiming that Common Core kills Indian kids only invites ridicule that prevents good arguments from being heard.

38 comments

I would say Senator David Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen) is pushing hard for the youth minimum wage, but that might exaggerate the forcefulness with which David Novstrup legislates. When David talks about Senate Bill 177, he sounds less like a man speaking from conviction and more like a boy told by his dad Al, "Son, here's a bill to keep our profits up at Thunder Road. Get everyone to vote for it, and I'll raise your allowance."

But neither David nor Al has to work too hard on this child labor law. They have Republicans itching to undo the annoying will of the people, and the youth minimum wage is the perfect angle from which to pee on our populist parade. Senator Novstrup gets to appeal to the disrespect for young people that is all too prevalent among business and legislative leaders. He offers his business pals a chance to save money. And he gets to stick it to people who can't vote or even circulate petitions (see SDCL 12-1-3(9)) to refer the youth minimum wage to a vote, if it becomes law.

But you know, Democrats, if we're looking for a way to engage young voters and soon-to-be voters, maybe we should use Senator Novstrup's attack on young workers' rights as our number-one organizing tool. If we can't stop the Republican supermajorities from passing SB 177, maybe we refer the youth minimum wage to a public vote. We get moms and dads to circulate petitions with their working teenage sons and daughters: Mom and Dad hold the clipboard and sign the oath, but the kids make their case for workplace equality. We promote Young Dems rallies across the state where industrious youth can talk about trying to raise money for college to keep themselves and their parents out of debt. We hand the kids flyers with pictures of fun-park operators Dave and Al and the rest of the Republicans and tell the kids to tell their friends, "If they have R's in front of their name, they voted to cut our paychecks 11%." And when November 2016 comes, we get them to bring all of their voting-age friends to the polls to vote against the youth minimum wage and against everyone who voted for it.

It would be preferable to save all that effort, mobilize a big youth turnout at the Legislature next week, and kill Senate Bill 177 now. But if SB 177 passes, we should refer it. That referendum would show Republicans that we voters really are the boss. A referendum on the youth minimum wage would also help teach young voters and future voters that politics is about vital pocketbook issues that demand their attention.

25 comments

The South Dakota House showed a little common sense yesterday and killed House Bill 1206, which would have allowed individuals to carry concealed weapons on our public university campuses. But some Republicans couldn't let that happen without exposing their contempt for the university students from across the state who admirably mobilized, testified, and lobbied to kill this bill. Young voters, pay attention.

Rep. Scott Craig (R-33/Rapid City) rose to speak to the dying bill (around timestamp 1:09:30 in the SDPB audio). He said he could be inclined to vote against the bill, just because he thinks most college kids—not the righteous, upstanding youth whom he thinks would carry guns on campus, but all the rest of the kids—are drunk rapists:

I wish I saw an irate student body, the representatives of the student bodies in all of our universities and colleges, I wish they were irate about what is killing, not about what might or what could, which I think is a real stretch, but what is killing their peers right now. The date rape is just nuts. We have an out-of-control culture, period, and a big part of that is seen in a four-year party.

I am very concerned about that. Now I am not so concerned about students carrying guns on campus, given who I believe those students would be. At the same time, my concern about the current system, just the culture of college, it is a bar, in many respects it is like a bar, and it is against the law to bring a gun to a bar.

I voted yes for this in committee. I just might vote no on it simply because our young folks are out of control. There's a lot of drinking, and it's like bringing guns to a bar when you go to college [Rep. Scott Craig, floor debate on HB 1206, South Dakota House, Pierre, South Dakota, 2015.02.19].

Rep. Craig did vote to let students bring concealed weapons to their drunken four-year party.

HB 1206 sponsor Rep. Jim Stalzer (R-11/Sioux Falls) followed with his closing remarks. He said a fair amount of rot, but none more rotten than this blatant insult:

When I was in college, I actually had to go to class. I don't know how all these people are here today [Rep. Jim Stalzer, floor debate on HB 1206, South Dakota House, Pierre, South Dakota, 2015.02.19].

Rep. Stalzer chortled at his own comment, as did several of his colleagues. Stalzer and friends are laughing at you, students. They are ridiculing your effort to participate in the political process. They are ridiculing the sacrifice you made to miss class, drive three hours in the middle of winter, and try to persuade a bunch of people who apparently don't respect you to still vote in the interests of public safety on your campuses. They are ridiculing you, students, for daring to use your voice.

Young people, Republicans like Craig and Stalzer need to go. You need to remember these speeches made on the floor of the South Dakota House. You need to come out en masse to vote in 2016 and vote these men out of office.

p.s.: I remind you, students: every Democrat in the House voted against HB 1206. We Democrats don't talk about students that way. We Democrats respect your voice.

69 comments

South Dakota Senate Republicans yesterday declared that neither young people's labor nor the popular will matter when they want to cut business a break. On a party-line 26–7 vote, the Senate yesterday passed Senate Bill 177 which would set the minimum wage for workers under 18 at $7.50, a buck less than the $8.50 South Dakota voters established as the minimum wage last November.

Prime sponsor Senator David Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen, who speaks as if he is afraid of the microphone, or of his own bill) says he's just trying to give kids the opportunity to work. He asserts that business owners have told him the increased minimum wage is causing them not to hire young people, allowing them to pay kids less ensures they can still get jobs. When asked by Senator Billie Sutton (D-21/Burke) how many workers would be affected by this pay decrease, Senator Novstrup admitted he doesn't have numbers. "There's a lot of games you can play with statistics," said Novstrup... which statement is the hallmark of a debater who is losing an evidence-based debate.

In response to concerns that employers would lay off adult workers to exploit cheaper youth labor, Senator Novstrup pointed to the line in Section 2 of his bill that says, "No employer may take any action to displace an employee, including a partial displacement through a reduction in hours, wages, or employment benefits, in order to hire an employee at the wage authorized in this Act."

While Senator Novstrup digs through his briefcase looking for the enforcement mechanism for that clause, I ask this question: suppose you're starting a business. You need an entry-level worker. You get apps from a 17-year-old and a 19-year-old, both about equally qualified. Whom will you hire: the 19-year-old at $8.50 an hour, or the 17-year-old at $7.50 an hour? Nothing in SB 177 stops you from making the economic choice and getting the same labor less money, thanks to GOP age discrimination.

Senator Bernie Hunhoff (D-18/Yankton) said such age discrimination does not reflect South Dakota values. He said we should respect the dignity of work, regardless of the worker's age.

Senator Sutton added that we should also respect the will of the voters. South Dakotans voted to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour last November, without qualification or exception. Senator Gary Cammack (R-29/Union Center) said SB 177 doesn't violate the people's will; it just adds a provision that should have been in the initiative in the first place. Senator Scott Parsley (D-8/Madison) challenged that wordplay: he said that if the minimum-wage initiative had been lacking something, the voters would have rejected it.

Senate Majority Leader Tim Rave (R-25/Baltic) then dismissed all talk of the voters' will. He said senators can't sit around respecting the sanctity of the initiative for a year, or two years, or five years, or whatever. Telling legislators they are elected to show "courage," he exhorted them to vote on SB 177 on its own merits, independent of the results of the November election. That's clever verbiage, but it's rhetorical cover for, "You darn Democrats, and you darn voters! We'll show you who's boss! Pass all the initiatives you want; we will by gum change them however we see fit!"

Senate Bill 177 now heads to the House, where high school pages, who work for free, can silently watch their Republican bosses further devalue their peers' labor.

42 comments

Governor Dennis Daugaard has submitted his juvenile justice reform bill, and the Legislature has quickly jumped on board. Senate Bill 73 has 31 Senate sponsors and 61 House sponsors. When a bill has 92 sponsors out of 105 members, isn't there a mercy rule that says the bill wins and calls the game?

It's easier to list who's not sponsoring SB 73:

Senate:

  • Phil Jensen (R-32/Rapid City)
  • Betty Olson (R-28/Prairie City)
  • David Omdahl (R-11/Sioux Falls)
  • Bill Van Gerpen (R-19/Tyndall)

House:

  • Jim Bolin (R-16/Canton)
  • Shawn Bordeaux (D-26A/Mission)
  • Blaine Campbell (R-35/Rapid City)
  • Dan Kaiser (R-3/Aberdeen)
  • Kevin Killer (D-27/Pine Ridge)
  • Isaac Latterell (R-6/Tea)
  • Sam Marty (R-28B/Prairie City)
  • Lance Russell (R-30/Hot Springs)
  • James Schaefer (R-26B/Kennebec)

Non-sponsorship may mean nothing. It may mean these eleven Republicans and two Democrats got back from lunch later than everyone else the afternoon Daugaard's chief of staff went around rounding up signatures.

But I can't help noticing the ideological bent. Most of the Republicans on this list are from the arch-conservative Mugwump camp, the folks perhaps most inclined to buck the Governor for going liberal... which Todd Epp says the Governor appears to be doing with this reform package. As usual, they don't have the numbers or the people skills to organize an effective resistance to something the boss wants. But maybe we'll hear some fun speeches in opposition from this core group of conservatives.

18 comments

Governor Dennis Daugaard is proposing a juvenile corrections reform package that will impose net new costs on the state of about $2.9 million. The proposal doesn't seem like a bad idea.

But may I suggest a policy alternative... or better yet, if we don't want to play false dilemma, a policy complement? Let's do as Chicago did and give low-income kids summer jobs:

A couple of years ago, the city of Chicago started a summer jobs program for teenagers attending high schools in some of the city's high-crime, low-income neighborhoods. The program was meant, of course, to connect students to work. But officials also hoped that it might curb the kinds of problems — like higher crime — that arise when there's no work to be found.

Research on the program conducted by the University of Chicago Crime Lab and just published in the journal Science suggests that these summer jobs have actually had such an effect: Students who were randomly assigned to participate in the program had 43 percent fewer violent-crime arrests over 16 months, compared to students in a control group.

That number is striking for a couple of reasons: It implies that a relatively short (and inexpensive) intervention like an eight-week summer jobs program can have a lasting effect on teenage behavior. And it lends empirical support to a popular refrain by advocates: "Nothing stops a bullet like a job" [Emily Badger, "Chicago Gave Hundreds of High-Risk Kids a Summer Job. Violent Crime Arrest Plummeted," Washington post: Wonkblog, 2014.12.08].

Hmmm... 25 hours a week for 8 weeks at minimum wage... $2.9 million would pay 1,700 kids for their work. That's nearly three times the number of juveniles currently in JDC's custody.

The evidence says that if you put kids to work, they commit fewer crimes. Legislators, are you willing to put some money where the research is? Are you willing to include a jobs program in the Governor's juvenile justice reform initiative?

Tangential Reading: In other policy amendments, perhaps the Governor could put young people to work building bicycles. A new study finds the cycling industry is creating more jobs in Europe than Ford, GM, and Chrysler are creating in America.

4 comments

Governor Dennis Daugaard's budget proposal includes a new Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Initiative. A major part of the plan is to reduce the frequency and length of residential placements of juvenile offenders—i.e., put more kids on probation instead of yanking them from their homes and locking them up.

Why does that sound familiar? I turn back to my interview with then-District 33 Senate candidate Robin Page:

Education reform isn't just about money. Page sees the education of lots of low-income and American Indian youth suffering because of shortcomings in our juvenile corrections system. Juvenile offenders with mental health and addiction issues are often placed in out-of-state residential facilities. Such programs in places like Utah and Georgia cost $250 to $500 per juvenile per day. Stays in such facilities regularly last 12 to 18 months. When young people come back from such programs, they deal with enormous disruption in their schooling. Their friends have moved on. They feel out of place among younger, "normal" students. They often come from homes that lack the resources to pursue GEDs. But without a diploma, they can't get into vo-tech programs and land good jobs.

Page would like to break that cycle. Instead of sending kids and money out of state, Page would like to invest in treatment programs that would keep juveniles, especially Indian juveniles, closer to home and family and maintain some continuity in their education. Such in-state programs would make it easier for families to participate in family therapy and other more holistic approaches to help juvenile offenders get back on the right track [CAH, "District 33 Senate: Robin Page Seeks Balance, Voice for All," Madville Times, 2014.05.24].

Ship fewer kids off to expensive residential facilities, help them stick with their families and keep up with their studies, reduce their chances of offending again—that was Page's thinking, and it's the Governor's thinking.

Alas, with respect to American Indian youth, the Governor's initiative isn't making much of an extra effort. The JJRI includes one recommendation (out of twelve) to "conduct stakeholder outreach" and develop a pilot program for tribal youth. The Governor's recommended FY 2016 budget adjustments direct just $5,000 more to the Department of Tribal Relations for the JJRI, perhaps to supply the study group with coffee and donuts... and, we can hope, to give some officials some gas money to head out to Rapid City and hear more of Robin Page's ideas.

2 comments

Oh, those crazy kids—er, young voters age 18 to 34. The September 3–7 Survey USA poll finds South Dakota's youngest voters not doing what you might expect.

They aren't supporting Democrats, at least in any notably greater numbers than other age groups.

U.S. Senate All 18-34 35-49 50-64 65+ 18-49 50+
Mike Rounds (R) 39% 40% 43% 39% 35% 42% 37%
Rick Weiland (D) 28% 30% 14% 33% 32% 20% 33%
Larry Pressler (I) 25% 13% 34% 24% 26% 25% 25%
Gordon Howie (I) 3% 6% 1% 2% 2% 3% 2%
Undecided 5% 12% 7% 2% 4% 9% 3%

 

U.S. House All 18-34 35-49 50-64 65+ 18-49 50+
Kristi Noem (R) 53% 56% 55% 53% 51% 55% 52%
Corinna Robinson (D) 40% 36% 37% 42% 43% 36% 42%
Undecided 6% 8% 9% 5% 5% 8% 5%

 

S.D. Governor All 18-34 35-49 50-64 65+ 18-49 50+
Dennis Daugaard (R) 54% 52% 53% 55% 54% 52% 54%
Susan Wismer (D) 34% 33% 32% 37% 32% 33% 35%
Michael Myers (I) 6% 7% 7% 3% 9% 7% 6%
Undecided 7% 8% 8% 5% 6% 8% 6%

None of the Democrats enjoys an advantage among voters age 18–34. Dems' support among younger voters does not differ from their support among older voters by more than the margin of error, meaning you're as likely to spill your drink on a Weiland or Wismer voter at bingo night as you are at the Icon Lounge.

Perhaps those numbers support David Newquist's thesis that lots of young Democrats leave South Dakota, leaving behind a young cohort that votes pretty much like everyone else.

One twitch among the not quite as young as we used to be voters: check out the Weiland–Pressler numbers in the 35–49 set. That group tanks for Weiland, just 14%, but peaks for Pressler at 34%, better than the numbers Pressler scores in the over-50 crowd. Hmmm... we 35-to-49ers are the teenagers of the Reagan-Pressler years. Maybe we are more subject to nostalgia than we want to admit (Larry! Start playing the 80s mix tape at your campaign events! Journey! The Bangles!).

On the issues, the youngest voters place their highest priority on the economy/economic development. At the state level, they are more interested in same-sex marriage than other age groups, but they give significantly less of a darn about Medicaid. Survey USA didn't ask about the importance of environmental issues in general, but the one specific environmental issue they mentioned, uranium mining in the Black Hills, hardly pinged on anyone's radar. Neither did EB-5—nertz!

The youngsters throw us one more curveball on the minimum wage:

IM18: Raise Minimum Wage All 18-34 35-49 50-64 65+ 18-49 50+
Yes 61% 41% 59% 67% 66% 52% 66%
No 22% 41% 20% 17% 18% 29% 17%
Not Certain 18% 18% 21% 17% 16% 20% 16%

The conventional wisdom says that young people are more likely to make minimum wage and thus should be more likely to support an increase. But while IM 18 gets overwhelming support from the other three age groups, the 18–34 crowd is evenly split, 41% to 41%. It looks like we need to give these young voters some remedial classes in productivity and economic justice.

11 comments

Support Your Local Blogger!

  • Click the Tip Jar to send your donation to the Madville Times via PayPal, and support local alternative news and commentary!

South Dakota Political Blogs

Greater SD Blogosphere

SD Mostly Political Mix

Greater SD Blogosphere

Madville Monthly

Meta