Press "Enter" to skip to content

HB 1234: Governor Daugaard’s Merit Bonus Plan in Writing

Last updated on 2014.07.14

Thar she blows! House Bill 1234 puts Governor Dennis Daugaard's really bad education reform ideas on paper for the South Dakota Legislature to debate and (please, please, please) kill. The details:

  • $3980 bonus to every high school and middle school math and science teacher who applies. One need not be a full-time math teacher: the standard is 51% of an FTE teaching math or science. The money comes in a lump sum; school districts may disburse $480 of that check to cover retirement, taxes, and adminsitrative costs (really? the business manager gets to skim?), leaving the teacher with a guaranteed $3500 in pocket.
  • $5700 bonus to up to 20% of the best teachers in each district. We round down: If your district has 99 teachers, up to 19 get bonuses. The district can keep $700 to cover taxes, retirement, and admin.
  • To qualify for a bonus, teachers need to get a "distinguished" rating on the evaluation instrument to be concocted by a 20-person workgroup consisting of teachers (pick me!), administrators, board members, parents, and reps from SDEA, SASD, and ASBSD. This criterion means that we aren't guaranteeing bonuses to 20% of the faculty: if a district has 100 teachers, 99 rate "proficient," and only one rates "distinguished," only that one latter teacher gets a bonus.
  • In addition to the "distinguished" rating, teachers may also demonstrate their bonus-worthiness by engaging in the following activities (that scratching sound you hear is teachers already taking notes and updating résumés):
    1. mentoring of less experienced teachers;
    2. curriculum development;
    3. assessment development;
    4. data analysis;
    5. service to the local district, state, or national committees or task forces;
    6. leadership in a professional learning community;
    7. national board certification (by the way, did you know that credentials don't predict teacher performance? oh, all that effort that could be spent instead actually working with kids...);
    8. other leadership activities or recognitions;
    9. additional criteria determined by the school board.
  • Experienced teachers lose their right to due process if their contract is not renewed.

HB 1234 emphasizes that participation in the bonus programs is voluntary. If any math or science teacher does not want the $3980, that teacher may simply skip filling out the application. Likewise the merit bonuses: if we really believe that merit pay is an ineffective and counterproductive policy, we teachers can shout "we're not racing!" and decline to apply.

Participation in the state-mandated evaluation scheme, alas, is not voluntary. School boards also have no authority to spend the governor's bonuses in any other way. That lack of local control may gum up the works for Republicans who are paying attention. Senator Larry Rhoden (R-29/Union Center) says his conversations with local teachers have led him to believe the Governor's plan should be amended to allow school boards to use the additional money for other locally determined priorities. Senator Ried Holien (R-5/Watertown), a former teacher, agrees that school boards need more flexibility in this bill.

If we can't kill HB 1234 outright, let's hope Senators Rhoden and Holien can at least work such amendments, so school boards can spend this additional money on policies that will actually work.


  1. tonyamert 2012.01.26

    I love how republicans scream that state government needs to be reduced and ceded to local control except when they're in charge.

  2. Steve Sibson 2012.01.26

    Tony, the Establishment GOP leadership are using deception in order to keep true limited government conservatives in their base. Of course that is made easy by the Marxist left who have taken leadership of the Democrat Party. Once conservative Republicans and populist Democrats understand that currently the only choice is more government, whether it is communism or fascism, perhaps we can begin to do something about the problem.

  3. tonyamert 2012.01.26

    Hello Steve,

    I certainly agree with you that both parties are pro-government spending. I just find it hypocritical that many republicans claim to be for limited government while signing onto these kinds of measures. I don't know what the better answer is for us (more or less government). Typically I'm more socialist in my views because of how I view the world.

  4. Michael Black 2012.01.26

    Could it be that the governor is thinking like a lawyer: everything is done is billable hours.

  5. Donald Pay 2012.01.26

    I don't have a problem with paying teachers a bonus for their time and effort for the items under 4. Some districts already kick in some money for some of these tasks.

    I'm not sure why it's limited to math and science teachers. South Dakota student scores in science have always been good. I admit I haven't followed them for the last 10 years, but this was always one of SD's best achievement categories.

    I don't think it hurts to have a committee to hash over an evaluation process, but it seems that committee should hold some hearings around the state to recommend any specifics about whether and how to disperse bonuses based on an evaluation. I think a study of this would probably indicate that bonuses based on evals would not be the best way to approach it.

    One thing that jumps out is that students aren't represented on the committee. If you want to know who the good teachers are, ask students. They'll give you good reasons, too.

  6. larry kurtz 2012.01.28

    @SoDakDems SD: Rep. Steve Hickey, "Tenure is a demotivator. It should not be part of our framework," adds that he has no complaints of SF teachers.
    1 minute ago

  7. larry kurtz 2012.01.28

    @angiebuhl. Next up: ed funding. Rep. Feinstein: "The only time I can remember when we weren't 50th was when we were 48th, before AK & HI were states."

Comments are closed.